Bushmoot 17 – Bushmoot Life – A Video Post

Over the last few years as I have made videos of the BCUK Bushmoot I have noticed I tend to video the workshops. Looking at the footage I shot this year I saw that I had captured so much more.

This is the 3rd and final video in my Bushmoot 17 trilogy focusing on ‘Bushmoot Life’ outside of the workshops and is dedicated to my wife Alison as she completed the first draft of her latest book during the Bushmoot – Congratulations Alison and look forward to reading it.

The other videos in the trilogy are:

1) Bushmoot 17 – Early Days

2) Bushmoot 17 – Core Days

Cheers

George

 

‘Space Shuttle’ Log Rocket Stove – With Des Cattys – A Video Post

This year at the Wilderness Gathering my friend Des Cattys was showing his love of Log Rocket stoves to visitors. I decided to drop in on one of his sessions to watch how he constructs one. Like Des I am intrigued by these stoves and I am always looking to improve on their construction so watching someone else at work building one is a chance not to be missed.

If you want more detail on making one of these stoves have a look at my How To…. on building a Log Rocket stove. There are many variations on them and I have included some of them on my Bushcraftdays blog in my How To section.

Cheers

George

Vojta at the Wilderness Gathering 2017 – A Video Post

Over the last few years one of the changes I have seen at the Wilderness Gathering is the quality of the music in the evenings – this year it was particularly great.

Roger Harrington of Bison Bushcraft and Dom Harvey (they run the Wilderness Gathering) had great music playing each night however I was particularly struck by one young musician – Vojta. He is a violinist at heart but somehow brings in many other instruments to his sessions.

Here is the last number he played at this years Wilderness Gathering.

Cheers

George

Dave Budd – Master Blacksmith at the 2017 Wilderness Gathering

While having a wander around the Wilderness Gathering this year I spotted my friend Dave Budd – Master Blacksmith – hard at work.

I was unsure at first what he was making so hung around and filmed the process.

I liked the end result I bought it as a present for a friend.

Cheers for the show Dave.

George

JP & The Coyote Kids Ambush

My 300th Blog Post

This last week I have had a great time at the Wilderness Gathering here in the UK with Fraser Christian of Coastal Survival. I will write a more detailed report on the Gathering later but just wanted to share with you today a little video I grabbed just before I left.

I was approached by Ian Cresswell from Lonescout Bushcraft and told that he had heard that the Coyote Kids group had planned to ambush our friend JP and dunk him in the lake. So at the appointed time I was on hand to see the snatch and witness the dunking – enjoy the video  🙂

Cheers

George

Happy Campers

Every now and then a nice little weekend comes along – this trip to Crowborough Army camp with the Sea Cadets was one of them (not often you can say that with Crowborough). My friends Dave and Alan Lewis had already set up camp when I pulled up ( I had been at Woodcraft School that day so was running late).

We had a group of 5 senior cadets and a party of Junior cadets to train in campcraft over the weekend.

All set up

There was other training going on in the camp but we were separate from all that in the woods. Along with us was Gary Brodie-Barratt who is under training for his Basic Expedition Leadership award. Under supervision from Dave, Gary led a lot of the classes covering subjects such as kit, clothing and tents.

Early start

While they were cracking on with these classes Alan and myself were preparing for an influx of Junior cadets later that afternoon. I did though get out with Dave and Gary when they set off to do some navigation.

Some of the cadets were learning map reading for the first time and some were on our intermediate course which focuses on compass work a lot more.

Focus on Navigation

Everyone though gets to play with the bothy bag – this little bag is a real life saver when you are in very exposed conditions. The cadets learn how to use one in a safe and controlled manner so that if they ever need to use one for real they will know how to deploy it correctly.

Practising for those emergencies

After lunch the Juniors arrived and the peace and tranquillity of our camp was shattered 🙂 These Juniors are so keen to learn that it is a pleasure to teach them.

We got them fire lighting first and soon had sausages, bread and marshmallows on the go.

Junior time

Later on I took them on a nature walk (with a little bit of navigation thrown in) down through the old World War 1 training trenches running beside the camp.

Exploring the trenches

We had cracking weather all weekend, did not have to share the woodland with any other groups (always a bonus) and for once had plenty of staff on hand – all in all it made for Happy Campers.

All things campcraft

Below are my favourite shots of the weekend (so want one of these blow up seats).

Mt favourites

Maybe next year I will get one of these weekends again 🙂

Cheers

George

Woodcraft School – Stepping Up

it was about 9 years ago or so that I was coming to the end of my Bushcraft Leadership course with John Rhyder at Woodcraft School. With my fellow students we had to prepare a couple of weekends training to visitors to prove we had mastered our bushcraft skills and also that we could pass these skills onto others – in May of this year I was back down at Woodcraft School but as a visitor this time with this years students.

Fire By Friction

I had received an invite and so popped down one morning in late May. All the classes had been set up and after a quick chat catching up with John it was time to get cracking. There was a class on bowdrill by Jack which was great but I was not. I failed to get an ember – excuse – I was not allowed to use my knife to make adjustments as I had not done that class yet 🙁

There were classes on campfire cranes (a particular favourite subject of mine loyal readers will know), safe carving techniques and different methods of using a firesteel.

Cranes, Carving and Birch Bark

Another favourite of mine is the Atlatl (I think I was one of the first students on John’s courses to teach this). We carved our own Atlatl and were soon pinging darts down the range.

I also had a chance to see how all the extras the we had built a couple of years earlier like the kitchen area and the raised fire pit were doing.

Atlatl

Then it was time for a stroll in the woods looking at useful plants. John runs an Ethnobotony course (which I hope to attend one day) and Lucy our instructor had completed this very in depth course previously – her knowledge on plants and their uses really came through on the day.

Ethnobotony

Back at camp Lucy had prepared about 15 plant specimens and we had to identify each plant and note its use correctly – tough but we got 100% after a bit of conferring 🙂

Time for a test

Lucy had also collected up some cleavers which she crushed up and boiled to make a green tea – this was really enhanced with some Elder flower cordial she had made earlier.

Cleaver Tea with a twist of Elder Cordial

My final class was with Lee looking at animal tracks and signs. Lee certainly knew his subject however I had to leave (to run one of my own courses) early and did not get out on the tracking walk he had planned.

Tracking & Signs

It certainly was great to get down to see John and the students at Woodcraft School and I wish all the students well for the future – as to you John, thanks for the invite and as per usual a job well done I think.

Cheers

George

Bushmoot 2016 – A Video Post

I have finally put together the little footage I took last year at the Bushcraft UK Bushmoot.

A nice reminder of what is coming up next August when the 2017 Moot kicks off.

The Damp Tinder Fire – A Video Post

A number of years ago my friend Rich59 from BCUK taught me how to get a fire going using damp tinder found on the forest floor. This short video goes through the process – I will post a detailed How To…. on this shortly.

Cheers

George

How To…. Weave a Natural Birch Bark Firelighter

they burn long and fierce

Apart from making baskets and sheaths out of bark I have been experimenting these last few years with weaving bark into natural firelighters. I came across a post on Bushcraft UK by a member called Woodwalker on these firelighters from 2010 – he called them Woven Kindling.

I have since added spruce resin to mine and liken them more to Natural Frelighters as they burn long and fierce. This is the second part in my two part series on natural firelighters – the first being my post on Birch Bark Fire Fans.

The Birch Bark Firelighter

Removing the bark

If you can find a semi rotten fallen birch log the bark tends to come of easily so just pull of the what you need. If you use semi rotted logs just take a little piece from as many different logs as you can as these logs are home to many different invertebrates.

If the logs are freshly fallen then I use my knife to score out the area I want to cut out (ensure it is a smooth an area as possible). If the bark does not peel off easily I batton it with a small log to loosen everything up before prising it off with my knife. I go into the specifics of removing the bark in more detail in my post on the Birch Bark Fire Fan. The main thing is to take your time when the bark does not come off easily.

Stripping the bark

Once I have my section of bark I will either peel it by hand into strips of about 1 cm in length or if I am feeling the need to be very accurate I will tap my knife into a log and use that as a tool to cut the bark into even strips.

Locking the strands together

1.  To make one firelighter you need four strips of birch bark. I use strips about 30 cm’s in length and 1 or 2 cm’s width.

2.  Fold each strip in half – the folded end is called the closed end and the end with the two tails is called the open end.

3.  Slide one closed end between the open end of another strip so it sticks out by 2 or 3 cm’s. In the picture below in section 3 you can see a T shape is formed.

Folding – Open – Closed

4.  The closed end of a third folded strip is added to the upright part of the initial shape to lock it off.

5. A fourth folded strip is added to the third strip to lock it off and the tails are threaded through the protruding loop of the first strip.

6.  All the strips should now be locked off.

7.  Pull everything in tight.

Locking in

The Four Strand Crown

The firelighter is formed by weaving a Four Strand Crown knot. I have added the arrows to help you visualise what I am doing.  Important – There will be two strips of bark at each open end. Only use the top strip of each open end when you begin the weave

8.  To begin the knot fold one of the strips over. In section 8 I chose to fold the top strip on the left over first.

9.  The strip is folded over to the opposite side.

10.  To secure that strip in place I folded the strip at the top over this first strip to secure it in place.

11.  This top strip (now at the bottom) was secured in place by folding the right hand strip over it.

Four Strand Crown Knot

12.  To secure the fourth strip loosen the first strip slightly so that it forms a small loop by its fold – known as an eye.

13.  Feed the tail of the fourth strip into this eye.

14.  Pull the tail of the fourth strip in tight.

15. Repeat from step 8 to 14 again to form another layer of weave.

Building the layers

Flip the whole piece over and begin the weave on what were the bottom strips. Once you run out of bark to fold over tuck in the ends into a suitable slot or trim them off with your knife.

Repeating on the other side

The Resin

These little firelighters take only a minute or two to make but they can burn for far longer if you add some resin to them. I use spruce resin as it is plentiful here in the UK (again I discuss harvesting resin in my post on the Birch Bark Fire Fan in more detail).

I break of little blobs (it can get messy if the resin is runny) of resin and insert them into the little slots formed by the weave and that is basically it (use as much resin as you can).

Add the magic ingredient

When lit these firelighters burn easily for over 5 minutes so giving you time to build your fire without resorting to using fine tinder and just small twigs. I can easily hold the firelighter for the first minute before it becomes to fierce to hold.

Once it gets going and the resin is well lit then it I go no where near it with my fingers. I like to use them first thing in the morning when I do not want to faff about with collecting tinders and just get a brew on.

Ready to go

I prep mine in the evening while sitting around the fire and pack them away for when I need them. If you are looking for a viable alternative to modern firelighters then these are ideal – if you are always a purist and insist on foraging for your tinders every time you light a fire then maybe they are not for you.

Quick to make and lasts for ages

For those that like a video intead of the step by step I put this short video together to explain the process.

Cheers and happy weaving.

Geprge

How To…. Make A Birch Bark Fire Fan

Ever find yourself relying on using non-natural firelighters a lot due to their convenience? I do as I normally have a lot to organise before courses and using natural methods every time when I have a class can be time consuming when things are damp.

This is the first of two blogs on natural firelighters I like to use and how to make them. I like to prepare them well in advance of trips, pack them away in my bergen and use them instead of the likes of cotton wool and Vaseline (my usual non-natural method).

The Birch Bark Fire Fan

I came across a number of years ago a small section in Ray Mears book Essential Bushcraft on using a Birch bark fan. Ray recommended folding pieces of bark into a fan shape to stop the bark curling up quickly and becoming impossible to handle when it was lit.

I teach this method to my cadets however if I have time I like to add some melted spruce resin to these fans. This really extends the life of the fan giving me a better chance to get my fire going (great for these damp days) and because the resin soon hardens the fans they do not fall apart or deform so much when carried in a bag.

Removing the Bark

If you have a semi rotted birch log then the bark should come off easily however if it is a freshly felled log things may get a little more difficult for you. Here in the UK the birch bark can be quite thin and more difficult to remove than the thicker bark of birch trees you would find in more northern climes.

Mark out the squares

I mark out small squares with my knife and if the bark does not peel off easily I use a small batten to gently hammer the bark. This gentle hammering helps to loosen the inner bark from the sapwood.

Also having a wooden wedge helps to peel the bark of but mostly I tend to just use the curved part of my knife. Some folk say it is better to use the back of the tip of your knife but I find the curved part works well for me. The main thing is to take your time and remove the inner and outer bark from the sap wood.

Tap and Peel

Remove the Inner Bark

When I have removed a small square I gently remove the inner bark. Again do this job slowly removing the inner bark in small pieces. It is very easy when using thin bark to rip the outer bark.

Carefully strip off the inner bark

Folding the Fan

To make your fan start folding your square as if you were making a very small fan – not much more you can say about that 🙂

Fold like a paper fan

Keep a hold on one end and with a strip of bark tie off the other end. They do not take long to make and are soon ready for the resin.

Tie a tail

Spruce resin

Here in the UK a handy and plentiful resource is Spruce resin. There are lots of conifer plantations where I live and a common tree in them is the Spruce. I keep an eye out for areas where the foresters have been using tractors to thin out the spruce as they tend to damage lower branches on trees they pass by.

To help heal itself the trees produce copious amounts of resin and this is full of oils that are flammable. By taking a little from different sites (I use a stick to scrape the resin) I can soon have plenty to melt and coat the Birch bark fans and leave plenty for the trees.

Harvest some resin

I just use a couple of tins (the inner tin has lots of little holes) to melt the resin by my campfire (I have documented this process in How To…. Spruce Pitch in a Tin Can) and dunk the tail of the fan into this hot liquid (good gloves or tongs are required here).

Once the tail is covered I pour some of the resin onto the area of the fan by the tail leaving the top of the fan clear of resin.

Melt, dip and pour

I find this combination works for me as the folds stop the bark from curling straight away and when the flame reaches the resin it burns for far longer.

One excellent fire lighter

I put a little video together on this to show you the process from start to finish.

The next post in this short series will be on making a woven Birch bark firelighter (again with Spruce resin).

Cheers

George

A Boys Own Weekend – More Time to Relax

OK – when I say we had a ‘Boys Own Weekend’ it was not through choice – sometimes it just happens that way and no girls had booked on the course.

Last October I spent an excellent weekend with my friend Dave Lewis teaching some Sea Cadets more advanced navigation techniques. They had all completed their basic campcraft skills and so the focus was on the use of the map and compass.

Lots of Nav

We were based in the Ashdown Forest here in the UK (Winnie the Pooh land) and really tested the lads out with their navigation. We had access to Pippingford Park training area so we were not continually bumping into people as you would do in the open access areas of the forest.

Pippingford Park has a wide variety of habitats from heathland, woodland and wetlands. The park also has many deer and wild horses roaming its interior making it a special place to visit.

Up High – Low Down

We camped in the park on the Saturday evening and soon had a good fire going. Even though it rained a lot we got the marshmallows out and I started to spot loads of fire faces in the flames.

Fireside Fun

The colours were quite beautiful that weekend with all the fungi out and the leaves on the ground. Every time the sun came out so did my camera as that is when the colours came alive.

Autumn Colours

It is weekends like these where there are only a few of us that I really enjoy teaching. More focus can be given on the advanced skills and more time can be given to the instructors to relax 🙂

Cheers

George

2016 in B & W and a Happy New Year

Over the last year I have dabbled with some of my pictures to see how they they fared in Black and White. I did look for pictures that gave me good shadows and high levels of contrast. I have no idea if that is the best way of going about it but I had fun along the way.

I hope you enjoy the pictures and wish you all a Happy New Year.

Port Beach – Isle of Lews
A Room with a View – Edinburgh
Fungi Forest – Banchory
Figure Four Deadfall – Merthyr Mawr
Fire Faces – New Forest
Family Faces – Brittany
Re-naturing – Bramly, Hampshire
Little Towers – Big Towers – Isle of Lewis
Chillaxing – Isle of Lewis

Have a great New Year Folks.

Cheers

George

Chosin Cup 2016 – One Hard Weekend

The London Area Sea Cadets annual Chosin Cup competition is one event I look forward to every year. Since 1999 I have been attending this event and this year may not have been the hardest in terms of the weather but it sure was hard due to the sheer number of different tests the cadets had to undertake.

Friday

Kick off is on the Friday night (late September) with the cadets marching in to their bivvie sites and working on their route cards. The staff though were up into the early hours prepping everything for the weekend.

Saturday

First thing on Saturday morning they were briefed in their teams and then they were off. They needed to navigate a route inside and outside Pippingford Park military training area (located in the beautiful Ashdown Forest in the UK).

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Out and about

This year the Chosin Cup was run by our ‘soon to be‘ new Area Staff Officer Ben MacDonald. Ben is keen to really test the cadets and brought in some new activities for them to try out.

Cliff Lewis was in his element running the timed rowing race, there was plenty of archery to test the keen eyed ones, loads of fake blood for the hardy at heart to stem and a fantastic climbing tower to let the cadets scurry up.

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Multi activities

In between each stance the cadets had to keep navigating and pushing themselves to get to each one as quickly as possible.

The Tyrolean Traverse and the Minibus pull tested the cadets teamwork and strength while the Seamanship stance worked on their core Sea Cadet skills

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Skills and Stamina

In between all this tooing and frowing of cadets the staff were busy running the stances (well some got a bit of R&R in between) and we had a visit on the Sunday from the Senior London Area officers (that kept us on our toes).

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Busy Staff

As for myself I was in the enviable position of being the roving safety officer/official photographer (my car ended up totally covered in dust from all the dirt tracks).

I put together a couple of short videos of the weekend and below is the first one with snippets of the Saturdays activities.

The Saturday night was not a quiet affair, as soon as it was dark, they were off again. This time on a night navigation excercise working from point to point using compasses and maps – they all made it and were soon safely back at camp.

Sunday

All the activities on the Sunday morning were located within the confines of Pippingford Park (no hardship there as it is a beautiful site) and so after a good breakfast it was time to get started again.

The cadets were kept busy hauling themselves and all their kit up steep inclines, building rafts (a few did come apart) and stalking the enemy 🙂

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Sunday morning activities

My friend Charlie Brookes ran the Fire Race. This involves collecting different tinders and twigs then lighting them (using a firesteel) and getting the flames high enough to burn through a suspended horizontal rope – not as easy as you might think.

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Fire Race

The event culminated in each team having to run the Endurance Race. This was set up by our friend Kev Lomas from Southern Area Royal Marines Cadets and he knows how to set a tough race (he knows his stuff as he runs a company called Muscle Acre).

After a briefing they were off – each team took about 15 minutes to complete the race. It was a mixture of natural and man-made obstacles but the general theme was mud, ropes and water.

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Start of the Endurance Race

It was great to watch the cadets pushing themselves over the race and really come together as individual teams. There were staff located all around the site to encourage the cadets and ensure they were always safe. It was hard for them but the looks on their faces when they finished showed that they really enjoyed themselves.

Pushing On
Pushing On

For many years I have run with the teams around these races however this year it was time to let others have a go and as the official photographer I encouraged/poked/prodded some of the other staff to have a go so I could film them (you have to have some sort of R&R when you reach 50!!)

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The staff having a go

Below is the second of my videos showing the Sunday activities including the Endurance Race.

After a quick wash up it was time for the awards. There were 9 teams entered in the event this year and a close run thing it was too.

Merton Unit came 3rd, City of London came 2nd and the winners were Maldon Unit – BZ guys.

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The Awards

For many years the Chosin Cup has been overseen by our two Area Staff Officers Perry Symes and Graham Brockwell. They are standing down now to make way for some younger members of staff such as Ben MacDonald to take over and test themselves.  This post then, I am dedicating, (like my videos) to these two stalwarts of the Adventure Training world in the Sea Cadets – Perry and Graham.

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Chosin Cup

The weekend could not have been run without all the staff that volunteered to come along and run it so thank you to each and every one of you.

Thanks to all the cadets that came along and really tested themselves in what I regard as the toughest competition the Sea Cadets and the Royal Marines Cadets run.

Finally thanks must go to Ben MacDonald for putting it all together and making it a fine one for Perry and Graham to bow out on.

Cheers

George

Bushcraft Birthday Bash

There has been a lot of skullduggery going on in the Aitchison-Jones household recently and it all came to a head in September 🙂

My wife Alison made sure that a certain weekend in September was kept well clear in my diary. I was told to pack for a family camp to celebrate my 50th birthday (location unknown) – hard to believe I have reached such a lofty age, I know 😉

So after packing we set off on a magical mystery tour that stopped off at the Arrivals lounge at Gatwick Airport. Passing through the gates was ‘Darling Barney’ all the way from Southern France to celebrate my birthday with us.

The pictures in this blog are a mixture from Tony Bristow, Ian Woodham, Alison Jones and myself.

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The Bushcraft Birthday Bash

The magical mystery tour continued to our friends Philippa and Phil’s farm just outside Dorking in Surrey. I was directed to a field to set up camp and we soon had our hammocks up and fire on. That night Phil came down to join us around the fire, there was a Harvest Moon and real ale and I was happy as Larry.

Phil asked Barney and myself if we could help him and a couple of friends complete a bridge at his girls school the next morning.  I thought nothing of this as I normally help out Phil’s farm when I camp there and Barney is a carpenter/cabinetmaker anyway so his skills were needed.

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Friday Night – Saturday Morning

It was a good morning mucking about in the mud building the bridge and we even stopped off for a couple of pints on the way back.

Unbeknownst to me Alison had set up a secret Facebook page and invited lots of my friends to the bash. While I was away folks started to arrive and needless to say that when I was in the car coming back down the field to the camp I was feeling slightly bemused.

There followed a lot of hugging and generally turning around with a startled look on my face as more and more folk popped out of the wood. These Saturday morning arrivals were friends from various parts of my life. Barney and Steve from Raleigh International, Liz, Rick, Stu and Gordon from Crisis, Alan and Dave from the Sea Cadets, Tony, Shelly, Robin, Jenna, David, Ian and Archie from Bushcraft UK

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More Surprises

Alison had arranged for a delivery of groceries to be dropped off at the farm and a feast was quickly prepared. David Willis (Bushcraft With David Willis) used his bushcraft baking skills to make bread and our resident Sea Cadet chef Alan Lewis got on with prepping the skewers for the barbie.

I had gone from quite chilled out (must have been the two pints in the pub) to frantically running around getting the fires going, maintaining them and trying to chat with everyone who arrived. Those of you who know me personally know that multi tasking is not my strong point.

Added to all this confusion my friend Graham was spotted coming down the hill carrying a massive present all wrapped up. He told me I could not open it until later that evening around the fire.

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The Feast

After a few more beers (I kept opening one, putting it down, chatting, losing it, opening another……and so on, repeating the process) the food was ready and a lovely birthday cake produced.

Thanks to everyone who brought a present along – every one was appreciated and I am still working my way through all the single malts you brought along Rick, Gordon, Stu, Dave and Alan.

The wooden ’50’, Cliff, sits with my medals and other personal bits and bobs. It is a lovely piece of carving buddy.

Still not used the old military canteen, Barney, in case I damage it – it too will live on my bits and bobs shelf.

As for the Harrier knife carving, that log Graham that may take a while. (The massive present Graham brought me turned out to be a rare Harrier stamped knife together with a log from which to carve my own twelve-piece dinner service).

Thanks Phil and Philippa for the lovely honey you had just jarred 20 minutes before. As fresh as you can get I would imagine.

Thanks for all the Go Outdoor vouchers – I spent a happy couple of hours in there getting some extra kit.

Lastly to Alison for getting me that rather nice laptop I was really looking for (cheers for organising that Dave). It works a dream and I can process pictures so much quicker now.

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Partying

The rest of the evening was spent chatting and from time to time Alison managed to extract some stories from folks about myself – many had the ending of me being hit in some way 🙂

A real highlight of the evening was listening to Robin and Jenna singing Happy Birthday to me in Welsh – I am not normally an emotional person but that moment will stay with me for the rest of my life.

A surprise evening arrival to the party were my good friends John and Caron of Woodcraft School (apologies I did not get a picture of you at the party). They just sort of appeared out of the dark while I was chatting away (just when I was sure there were no more surprises I was proved wrong).

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Activities

Sunday morning soon came and those that had decided to stay for the night rose to a breakfast of bacon rolls and sausages before cracking on with some archery and Atlatls and posing for a Survivors’ picture.

Packing up was a sad business as everyone prepared to travel back home but I was still reeling slightly in a happy way from the whole surprise party.

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Survivors Photo

I am still amazed at the distances people travelled to come to the party – France, west Wales, Leeds and more. Some came for the day and others stayed overnight. Thank you to all those who could not make the weekend but sent me there heartfelt wishes instead.

Thank you everyone who came and a special thanks to Alison and Philippa for all your organisational skulduggery 🙂

Cheers

George

The Wilderness Gathering with Coastal Survival

Catching up with friends, learning skills and getting some new kit – that is what the Wilderness Gathering is to me.

Coastal Survival has been attending The Gathering for quite a few years and this was a busy one for me as they went. I could tell that as most of my pictures this year were of what we were up to and not about what everybody else was up to. I was working alongside Fraser Christian, Danny Stocks and Chris Lundregan (we were also joined by Lorna Stocks).

Food and skills were the order of the day for us at this years show.

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At The Gathering

Over the weekend we kept a hot smoker going producing smoked mussels and mackerel. This kept a steady stream of visitors coming up to the stand. So much so that I did not get a great deal of time to wander around the rest of the show.

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Food on the go

There is something quite beautiful about the simplicity of smoking food that is attractive to folks that makes them want to just come in and try some – it certainly is not for our good looks 😉

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A busy stand

There was some time to get out though and catch up with folks. I missed Steve’s class on prepping rabbits but by the look on his face it went well.

Dave Budd was as usual working away but unusually he was having to be his own pump monkey on the forge – Where were you Emily? He needed you 🙂

Our neighbours at the show were Sonni and Angela from Beneath The Stars Leathercraft – the nicest set of neighbours than you could wish for.

Also spotted frequently was Jason bowdrilling away for the visitors. I sat beside him for one of his demonstrations and got some cracking pictures that I made into their own blog – Jason and the Ember Extender.

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Catching up with friends

Regular readers will know I am a fan of Damp Log Rocket Stoves and Des was there this year firing them up. This particular Log Rocket was very damp but he persisted and soon had a hearty stove that produced plenty of brews.

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Log Rockets with Des

As well as producing smoked food we spent time giving various classes such as this one on making a Bamboo Fishing Spear. This simple device does not take long to make and really packs a punch.

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Building a quick fishing spear

No Coastal Survival course would be complete without a bit of net making. Once again Fraser was up in the classrooms demonstrating his skills and getting the audience netting – I was meanwhile back tending shop – except for sneaking out to take some pics 🙂

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Net making

The Masterclass this year was on constructing a Stick Fish Trap. This was planned to take 3 hours but it took most of the day for the students to complete (and for some part of the next day) but it was worth it, These traps are designed to work and do the job of catching your dinner.

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Stick Trap making

These Stick Fish Traps are featured in Fraser’s new book Coast Hunter. This is the 2nd book in his coastal series and his copies sold out at the Wilderness Gathering. Look it up in Amazon if you are interested in all things coastal hunting.

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The new Coast Hunter book

I have been attending the Wilderness Gathering every year since 2005 so here’s to seeing some of you there in 2017 – An extra day I am told for next year 🙂

Cheers

George

How To…. Build a Stick Fish Trap

These traps are not just for show but tools for living as comfortably as you can on the coast

Last August found me at the Wilderness Gathering here in the UK with my good friend Fraser Christian of Coastal Survival. Fraser ran a Masterclass at the Gathering for about 8 people in how to make a stick fish trap.

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Willow Fish Trap

Fraser has a couple of books out now called Eat the Beach and Coast Hunter (he is currently working on his third book called Castaway on the Seashore). In the book Coast Hunter Fraser goes into detail on many coastal hunting techniques (including making this trap) and I encourage you to get a copy of these books if you are interested in the art of coastal survival.

Fraser uses this type of trap on the coast weighted down with stones in the inter-tidal zone to catch fish, crabs and lobsters. You can make the trap with many different woods found in the woods and hedgerows – just make sure it is pliable. As he was running a class for 8 people he brought in some commercial willow from Musgrove Willows.

Step 1 – Set Up

I will go through the steps as I saw them on the day but for more detail on this trap have a look inside the Coast hunter book. To form the shape Fraser used a paper plate and a tent peg to create a circle of willow. He tried to maintain an even distance (about two fingers width between each piece of willow) as he inserted the willow (thick ends) into the ground, They were pushed in about 10cm’s and the tent peg really helped as the ground was hard.

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Set Up

Once the willow was secured in the ground he tied of the top ensuring the willow sticks all came in at the same angle.

Step 2 – Weaving

The willow had been left overnight in a lake to ensure it was as pliable as possible however to make sure Fraser pulled each piece of willow he would weave with around his knee. This makes the weaving process so much easier and less tiring on your hands.

Starting with the thick end of a piece of willow he threaded it in and out between 4 or 5 uprights, Once that was secure he raised up the thinner in to carry on that in and out weave (raising the tip of the thinner end really makes the weaving easier).

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Weaving

In the picture in the bottom left you can clearly see that raised thin end being woven in and out of the uprights. He stopped the weave when he judged that part was too thin (the excess would be trimmed off later).

Once one piece was finished it was a case of repeating the process with a new piece of willow but from the next upright along. You can see in the picture in the bottom right below these staggered start points.  Frase ensured that the ends stuck out proud so that they would not slip off the first upright while weaving. These would be trimmed down later.

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Staggered

Step 3 – Wrapping the Top with willow

Over time the trap started to develop (a height of 50 or 60 cm’s) and the string at the top was replaced with willow. I have put the steps for you below. The thick end was slid through the middle of the uprights then wrapped tightly around the uprights for about ten turns, through the uprights again, a couple more turns and back through once more to finish.

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Tying off the top

Step 4 – Closing the Gap

Finishing the top section can be quite difficult as you have less room to push the willow in and out of the uprights. Make the willow as pliable as possible and experiment with smaller thinner pieces and with starting with the thin end and threading through the thicker end.

Depending on what you are hoping to catch will decide how much of a gap to leave but ideally the gap should only be a couple of centimetres.

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Closing the gap

Step 5 – Locking off the Opening

When the top has been finished pull the trap out of the ground slowly and it is time to lock off the uprights around the opening.

Take one upright and bend it over in front of the one directly to its right but behind the 2nd one on the right. Repeat the process with the upright on the right and so on. Before long you will be left with just one upright standing vertically. Twist it back and forth and you can thread it easily through the laid uprights to its right.

Look closely at the pictures below and you will see how this works.

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Locking off

Step 6 – The Lid

The lid is about a third of the size of the main body of the trap however the opening is the same size. Use the paper plate, peg and string in the same fashion as before to set up the skeleton of the lid and weave in the exact same way as with the main body of the trap.

The difference though is that the top is not tied off but left open as this will become the opening that your catch will enter the trap through. When the hole in the top is about the size of your fist repeat the process of locking off at Step 5.  You will also need to lock of the rim around the bigger opening when it is pulled out of the ground.

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The Lid

Step 7 – Trimming

When you trim off the ends of any piece of willow when making this type of trap try to leave about a cm or so sticking out so that the end of the willow does not slip inside the trap. The outside should be quite prickly but the inside should be smooth.

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Trimming

Step 8 – Attaching the Lid to the main body of the Trap

The lid should sit in the opening of the main body of the trap with the small opening in it well inside it. We split and soaked some willow (soaked in a cup of water) to make it really flexible and used that to tie the lid and the main body of the trap together.

They were tied together at one point only to ensure that the lid stayed attached but could be opened easily to remove any catch or to place any bait.

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Attaching the Lid

This project would take a confident weaver/basket maker a few hours to make however our students took most of the day (and one or two came back the next day to finish off) to complete theirs.

These traps are not just for show but tools for living as comfortably as you can on the coast. If you are interested in making these traps under a bit of guidance do contact Fraser at Coastal Survival.

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Happy Weavers

As with any trap do check out whether it is legal to use it in the place you want to set it. In the UK check out the Environment Agency.

Cheers

George

Jason and the Ember Extender

Last August I was at the Wilderness Gathering here in UK with my friends from Coastal Survival. Just across from us was my friend Jason Sears demonstrating the use of a bowdrill to visitors.

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Meet Jason

Jason is passionate about fire lighting and passing this skill onto others. I decided to sit back and watch his progress. I cannot remember the combination of wood types he was using but he did spend a minute gently warming everything up with some slow rotations of the spindle.

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Warming up

Once he felt everything was a dry as he could get it where the spindle meets the hearth board he really powered up to produce a hot ember. The day had been really wet so all this preparation was essential – all the while he was talking to the visitors explaining what he was doing.

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Powering in

To help himself along in getting his flame Jason had a piece of Cramp Ball fungus (Daldinia concentrica) on hand. He gently laid the piece of Cramp Ball beside the glowing ember to get it alight. This is a handy trick to remember in damp conditions as the ember created from the bowdrill can easily die out if you are not careful.

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A small coal with a touch of cramp ball fungus

After a few seconds and a few puffs of breath the Cramp Ball was well alight then………………………

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Well lit and very stable

He added to some straw and huffed and puffed for a bit 🙂

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Easy to control

Jason’s straw was also a bit damp so he spent a few moments just drying out the area around the cramp ball by gently blowing into it. It is at this stage that many embers disintegrate if you are not careful or they simply die out as they are too small to overcome the damp material.

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Spreading the heat

After a minute the centre of the straw was well dried out and smouldering nicely. Normally, I notice a sudden increase in smoke at this stage and the colour  changes slightly telling me I am about to get a flame………………………

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The straw is smoldering well

Which he did – one impromptu looking candle in fact.

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Flammage

It is always a pleasure to watch Jason at the Wilderness Gathering teaching visitors fire lighting, so if you are thinking of coming along next year check him out.

Cheers

George

Looking for Salmon – Found an Otter

Twitter – No Salmon – One Otter

Having a wonderful trip touring around Scotland these last two weeks with my family visiting family and friends. Currently we are staying with our friends Kate and John in Banchory (Aberdeenshire).

Kate mentioned that she had heard on Twitter that KT Tunstall (Scottish singer) had spotted some salmon leaping at the ‘Thundering Falls of Feugh‘ – so off we went to investigate. The falls were not thundering today and we spotted no salmon but this little fella popped up.

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Popped up and Popped out

Talk about getting excited. The otter appeared directly below us in the falls, disappeared and then popped up again. He or she was soon scooting up the side of the falls diving in and out of pools and the main flow.

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Up and around hunting

Before long the show was over as we were treated to a big slide down the side of the falls and all was as we had first found it when we arrived.

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Quick as a flash and away

I only had a standard lens on my camera so the shots are not the best however I really enjoyed watching the otter playing and hunting.

Cheers

George

Bushcraft, Bimbles and Beaches

Currently I am sitting in my mothers house in Port of Ness on the Isle of Lewis on holiday with my family.  I have had a very busy summer however I have had a very fun summer as well. Over the coming weeks I will catch up on writing up all my trips however I have realised I have not posted in over a month so thought I might just summarise the last few trips.

Bimbles

I spent many a day over the summer wandering around my village of Bramley exploring all its nooks and crannies with my kids and their friends.

Bramley Bimble
Bramley Bimble

The Sea Cadets

The middle of July found me in East Sussex with the Sea Cadets and our annual Adventure Training competition. Even amongst all this navigational competitiveness we found time to spend listening to the rustle of the Poplar trees.

Sea Cadet time
Sea Cadet time

The Bushmoot

The first two weeks of August I spent with my family at the annual Bushcraft UK Bushmoot in South Wales at Merthyr Mawr. We calculated that we had ran about 110 bushcraft classes in that two week period so the odd cup of freshly brewed coffee over a log rocket stove proved a must.

The Bushmoot
The Bushmoot

The Wilderness Gathering

Soon after the Moot I found myself helping my friend Fraser Christian from Coastal Survival at the Wilderness Gathering in Wiltshire. It was a weekend of wind, rain, sun and great fun as we helped our friend run all his classes.

The Wilderness Gathering
The Wilderness Gathering

The Isle of Lewis

Straight after the Wilderness Gathering I set off with my family up to the Isle of Lewis in Scotland. So far the weather has been great and my kids have been down swimming in the sea every morning. I am hoping for a few more great days before striking out to visit other friends on this trip across Scotland.

The Isle of Lewis
The Isle of Lewis

On my return I will be posting up more detailed reports on each of the trips but for now I will end with the hope that everyone else is having a busy and fun summer as well.

Cheers

George

Finlay – The Naturalist

For the last three months I have been out on regular bimbles with my son Finlay to observe and learn about nature for his Naturalist badge at Cubs.

This is not an easy badge to obtain and takes three months to complete with a number of different standards to meet (some of the standards have different options to choose from).

The standards/options Finlay chose to do were:

  1. Observe a natural area over a three month period a number of times to observe and record changes in nature
  2. Learn to identify six trees and six wild flowers
  3. Learn the Country Code
  4.  Build a Bug Hotel

Rather than just observe one natural area we spotted three good areas around the village to observe.  We visited each area five times  over three months to observe the changes occurring in nature.

Area 1 – Scrubland

This site was next to one of his playgrounds and initially seemed very promising (in the hope we would see a variety of different spring flowers) with all the Dandelion seed heads. They were still there on our second visit however the thick grass seemed to be inhibiting the growth of many of the spring flowers we were hoping to see.

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Area 1 – Scrubland – Visits 1 & 2

Over the following visits we spotted a few White Campion flowers and some Green Alkanet however it was the grasses,  Docks and Cleavers (Sticky Willy) that seemed to dominate in the end. Finlay seemed happy with that as I usually found loads of Cleaver strands stuck to my back when we got home 🙂

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Area 1 – Scrubland – Visits 3, 4 & 5

Area 2 – The Pond

I have been observing a particular pond in our village over the years and knew it would be good for Finlay to observe changes in nature.

The pond is full Reedmace (aka Cattail), Iris, and ringed by Marsh Marigolds and Mare’s Tail.  Initially all the growth was very subdued however you can see in the second picture below (2nd visit) that there was far more shade as the plants had started to grow. Finlay is in the same spot in each picture to observe and act as a measure to the growth.

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Area 2 – The Pond – Visits 1 & 2

There is always something happening at the pond with wildlife. Usually we disturbed a duck or two but we did spot plenty of frogs and insects. One visit we found a dead pidgeon by the side of the pond and noticed that the Iris had started to  produce its seed heads near the end of our visits.

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Area 2 – The Pond – Spots

Over the last 3 visits the Iris and the Reedmace soon came to dominate the pond and the outer ring of Marsh Marigolds generally died back.

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Area 2 – The Pond – Visits 3, 4 & 5 

Area 3 – The Stream

We have a culvert near our house and there is a good patch of Reedmace growing beside it. This spot I thought ideal to show Finlay how quickly this plant grows.

Initially it was the last years growth that dominated the stream with a lot of Hedge Garlic growing beside it. Over the subsequent visits the spring flowers all died off and the Reedmace shot up.

The growth you can see below happened over a two and a half month period.

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Area 3 – The Stream – Visits 1 to 4

On our last visit we spotted that the pollen spikes of the Reedmace had appeared. These are a great plant for any bushcrafter as the young spikes can be boiled and eaten, the roots are edible as well as the young plant shoots.

As this plant grows frequently beside (as seen by the pond) its lookalike poisonous neighbour – Iris, learn to 100% identify both plants before attempting to forage Reedmace.

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Area 3 – The Stream – Visit 5

Trees and Flowers

Over the last three months we studied our trees and wildflower as well as Finlay had to learn to identify six trees and six wildflowers.

For trees we focused on Oak, Hawthorn, Sycamore, Beech, Holly and Hazel. We started this on our first forage way back in  in May when we went out on our first foraging hike together – Foraging with Finlay. He is pretty confident with most of the trees now however he still has to think about some of them. We remember them by shapes i.e. the star for Sycamore, ear lobes for Oak, spikes for Holly etc.

Some of the flowers we saw regularly included White Campion, Forget-me-nots and Herb Robert. I think he struggles with White Campion as that one disappeared early but then again not many people can easily identify it.

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Trees and Flowers

One he does remember easily is Green Alkannet (something to do with the blue flower and it having the word ‘Green’ in its title I think), Self Heal and Wild Strawberries. The white flowers of Strawberries he remembered well, in anticipation of the feast we had on the last visit.

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Flowers and Foraging

It was not all learn, learn, learn as we had lots of fun along the way. Sometimes his sister Catherine joined us, there was lots of time spent in the parks , some beautiful insects were spotted and best of all we got muddy and spent quality time together.

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Extras

The Countryside Code

We spent time talking about how we treat the countryside while out and about. When I was a young lad we all had to be able to recite the country code however that list has now fallen out of favour now. The main aims now are to ‘Respect, Protect and Enjoy’ the countryside. Our trips would touch on these aims and a good pamphlet on the current code can be found here at the Peak District website.

The Bug Hotel

The last  standard for the badge was to build something for nature. We opted for a Bug hotel in the garden. Finlay, Catherine and one of his friends (another Finlay) spent a long time collecting and building their Bug hotel. I wrote a separate post on this titled – Building the Bug Hotel.

The Bug Hotel

It has been great fun working on this project with Finlay. He really deserves his Naturalist badge now and I look forward to working on some of these more challenging badges with him in the future. One day he will no longer need me to help him but in the meantime I intend to get out and about with him as much as possible.

Cheers

George

How To…. Build a Shear Leg Hammock Stand

This is a post that came about because someone decided to chop down a tree. On a recent Sea Cadet training weekend we ended up with one instructor (Jess), one hammock and one tree – my friend Dave and myself had bagged the other trees for our hammocks :-). Not an ideal situation for Jess you could say.

We could not camp elsewhere and there was nothing in the way of available natural material to help us (we were on a military camp). Thankfully my friends Alan and Dave spotted some old poles (used for team building exercises) at the back of of a building. So Dave with Jess as his assistant in true Seacadet style, set out to apply their seamanship talents to our problem.

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Shear Leg Stand

The Shear Lashing

They collected some assorted pieces of rope and a couple of cadets to help out. The poles were quite long and thick so they decided to tie the poles together about two thirds of the way along their length. The poles were tied together using a shear lashing (I will be using Grog’s Knots to help describe how they did this).

To start the shear lashing they attached the rope to one pole using a timber hitch and then wrapped the rope a number of times around both poles (this is known as wrapping). To make this easier the poles were raised slightly of the ground and the cadets helped to pass the masses of ropes around the poles.

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Wrapping

Once the wrappings were completed the lashing was tightened by being frapped (nothing to do with Facebook). Frapping is the nautical term to describe the tightening of a rope or cable. Dave did this by completing a number of turns around the centre of the lashing and pulling it all in tight.

To finish the lashing off he secured it with a clove hitch to the pole without the timber hitch. There was plenty of rope left over as well to help with anchoring the shear legs down.

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Frapping

Anchoring

Though the poles were large they were surprisingly light so they were soon standing vertical. A spare piece of rigging line was looped over the pole with the timber hitch on it and with the spare rope from the shear lashing the legs were securely anchored by wrapping both ropes around base of a solid fence post.

Both ropes were then tied off around the shear lashing on the poles to make it all secure.

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Anchoring

Alternative Anchors

If you do not have a handy anchor like our fence post you can make your own. In the past I have had shear legs and tripods for hammocks anchored safely with three large wooden stakes.

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Alternative Anchors

Securing

If you cannot drive your shear legs into the ground I would advise you to tie them together near the bottom so that they do not inadvertently splay out. Dave used the last of the lashing rope (it was a rather long piece of old climbing rope) to do this.

Finally, to finish the set up the shear legs were tied securely to our single tree using a top line. This top line as well as securing the shear legs was to act as a line to hang Jess’s tarp off.

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Securing

Testing & Set Up

I did a bit of testing after we had hung the hammock. I figured if it took my weight then Jess would have no problems. The top line went slightly slack when the system took my weight so that was re-tightened while I was in the hammock.

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Testing

After that it was a simple case of rigging the tarp and Jess setting up home for the night.

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Setting up home

This was a great solution from Dave to our missing tree problem and took less than an hour to complete. Jess slept the whole night soundly in her impromptu sleep system and I was chuffed that I managed to capture most of the stages in its construction.

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A Good Nights Sleep

If you are interested in making a slightly smaller and more mobile hammock stand yourself have a look at my two other posts on this subject,

How To…. Make a Freestanding Hammock Stand

How To…. Mk2 – Make a Freestanding Hammock Stand

Cheers

George

Forest Flammage

Flammage – A phrase I heard for the first time at Woodcraft School when I was studying for my Bushcraft instructors certificate. I love the word as teaching firelighting has always been a passion of mine. Over the last couple of months I noticed I had gotten some excellent flammage shots.

I teach firelighting using many different methods however when you have lots of kids to teach and not much in the way of time then firesteels do the trick. They do make for some cracking pictures as demonstrated below by my friend Dave Lewis at a recent Sea Cadet camp. When teaching firesteels to very young children I liken them to fairy lights and you can see why below.

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Fairy Lights

Now it is not all just one big firelighting fest as we do teach everyone to respect fire and how to be responsible in using it. Charlie got the kids in the picture below to use firesteels to strike onto char cloth and then blow it all into a flame using some dried grass. The resulting fire was kept contained in a fire tray and soon produced plenty of tea and chocolate cakes.

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Flammage

Some flammage fun here – we were given some offcuts of soft wood to burn by one of the other Sea Cadet instructors and I had brought along a pre-drilled fire face log rocket stove. With a criss cross fire lay and a well lit log rocket with the parachute in the background taking a picture seemed like a good idea.

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Log rocket fire face

I can spend hours watching a fire and when I think the flames are right out comes my camera and I start snapping away. I may take a hundred pictures in the hope that something will appear in the flames.

I call these pictures Fire Faces and in the two below I spotted two old men of the woods – see if you can spot them?

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Old men of the woods

I have plenty of pictures of the cadets and my own kids sitting around a fire toasting marshmallows and this simple act is something I never tire off. This evening though really stands out in my memory with the Fire Faces adding that bit of extra light and ambience.

Marshmallows by candelight

Taken in late spring down at my friend Fraser’s (Coastal Survival) during a rather stormy night was this picture of a bunch of hairy bushcrafters sitting snugly around the fire. Needless to say a dram or two helped pass the evening along nicely.

Stormy nights
Stormy nights

My favourite fire picture of the last couple of months though is this one. It is the fire the cadets were sitting around and I played around with the settings of my camera to try and capture the picture as best I could without a flash. I then just waited until a piece of wood split in the flames to capture all the sparks spiralling upwards.

Woodland TV

No doubt there will be a few more Flammage pictures coming up over the summer as the Bushmoot and the Wilderness Gathering approach so I will leave you with these for now.

Cheers

George

Nature Based Bushcrafting

Over the last few months I have not done much in the way of bushcraft so there has been a slight lack of How To …. tutorials coming out. I plan to change that after the Moot (where I will be looking for inspiration) however I have been getting out on little trips recently to photograph nature.

This post is just to record some of the moments I have had over the last few months. Starting with an accidental shot of a very wet and bedraggled willow catkin. It was a damp day and I was trying to get a close up of a bug but after looking at the picture found the catkin to be of more interest.

Pussy Willow

Not long after ripping a muscle in my calf I hobbled out into my garden and applied the 20 metre rule. That is stand still, kneel down, sit down and lie down but continually look around you for approx 20 metres and you should see something worth shooting. When I eventually laid down I came up close and personal to these beautiful little Forget-me-nots

Forget-me-nots

There was a re-wilding theme on the BCUK website a couple of months ago and I was stuck for ideas. Not long after the closing date I remembered this place outside our village. Proper re-wilding you could say 🙂

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Re-wilding

Back in April I went out for a walk with my kids in Morgaston woods and the bluebells were just coming through. I spotted this slightly thicker patch and after getting the kids to lie down (it was a job with all the pricklies) I got this rather nice shot. The angle of the shot made the bluebell patch seem much thicker than it actually was.

Peek a boo

Another one from my garden during my hobbling period. I was particularly taken with the water droplets on the primroses.

Spring days

My son has been undertaking some nature observations for his naturalists badge at cubs. we have been getting out and about as much as we can identifying trees and flowers such as these lovely Ramsons.

Naturalist badge – IDing the Ramsons

Spring would not be the same without a picture or two of some fluffy creatures. I thought this Greylag geese family looked particularly impressive at The Vyne National Trust property.

The Greylag family

This was a ‘face off’. I spotted this deer in the shadow of the woods while out looking at the bluebells. I had to change the lens on my camera as she was a fair distance away. Normally they run off by the time I change lenses but this one kept me square in her sights the whole time.

Staring contest

We moved on from just identifying plants for Finlay’s naturalist badge to tasting them as well. We tried out a whole range of leaves including the likes of these Jack by the hedge plants.

Naturalist badge – IDing the other garlic – Jack by the hedge

Some of the best finds were literary stumbled on like this complete fox skeleton in the New Forest. It was found by some of my Junior Sea Cadets and we laid it all out onto this log to get a real good look at it. Many of these kids have never been out of the city before so this was quite a find for them.

A Foxy find

I spotted this little butterfly sitting on a Herb Robert flower while visiting my friend Fraser from Coastal Survival a couple of weeks ago. Normally these little devils are away before you can get near them but this one just seemed to be soaking up the sun.

Delicate beauty

One of my favourite pictures was taken last weekend at The Vyne National Trust property. I heard a splash by the side of the lake and turned to see this Coot with a large Signal Crayfish in its beak.

The joy was not to last for the Coot though as another Coot came along and stole the crayfish away – such is nature sometimes I suppose.

A top spot

So although I have not been out doing practical bushcrafting much I have been getting out and observing nature with a keen eye – so you could say it was the more nature based side of bushcrafting.

Cheers

George

10 Reasons to Bushmoot – 10/10 – Don’t Just Take My Word For It

Here’s instalment number 10 in the ‘10 Reasons to Bushmoot‘ series. For those of you who have been following the series so far you will have gotten a feel of the wide range of activities on offer at the BCUK Bushmoot. Some of you have contacted me to say you will be attending for the first time this year, which is great, however if you still have not made up your mind then don’t just take my word for it.

I contacted a number of BCUK members and asked them to send me their favourite picture(s) of the Bushmoot (either one they took or from someone else) and to say why it was their favourite.

1 Charlie
Charlie Brookes’s favourite – picture taken by George Aitchison

Charlie – This picture fully sums up the most important thing about the Bushmoot for me, which is the welcoming family.
I first attended the Bushmoot in 2007 and that was only on a last-minute decision. Having been encouraged by the willingness of the BCUK members to welcome you to the forum and share knowledge, I decided to take the plunge and attend the Bushmoot.
It was with a feeling of apprehension that I drove down the lane from Merthyr Mawr. This feeling soon disappeared on booking in, where I was made most welcome by Tony and Shelley. What followed was one of the most enjoyable few days I had spent in a long time, everyone you met made you welcome and they were willing to pass on skills. I can only hope I can continue to make newcomers to the Bushmoot feel as  welcome as people made me feel.

2 Ian
Ian Woodham’s favourite picture

Ian – When I was asked by George to look through my photos and send him something that says why I enjoy Bushmoot, my first thought was to my boy. He and all the children play continually, coming back to camp only for food. There is always something going on, and in an age of computer games, you never hear a child say “I’m board” when spending two weeks away from electricity. 

3 Wayne Eleanor
Wayne Jones’s favourite picture

Wayne (Forest Knights)- The photo shows the spirit of the Bushmoot. Sharing skills with other bushcrafters from the novice to seasoned instructors. All come with a willingness to share their skills and learn from each other. Teaching Bhutanese bow making in such a beautiful location is a privilege. It is a joy to be part of the team.

4 Badger
Cap’n Badger’s favourite picture up at the Naughty Corner – the ‘Mammock’

Cap’n Badger – He chose this picture but cannot remember who took it (I think it may have been Lindsey Dearnley) – I remember I  was chilling in the sunshine with Darsha one afternoon when the life raft was stuck into the ‘Mammock’. Also I remember it being spun around with some of the girls inside..lol..and getting thirteen people in it! I’m surprised that little tree took the strain…

5Susannah
Susannah Parsons’s favourite picture

Susannah – The photo of a group of people toasting marshmallows reminds me of a couple of great things about the Bushmoot.

Firstly, woodland TV. There’s nothing like a fire for socialising, quiet contemplation and a general feeling of well-being. I do nearly all my cooking over a communal fire for the entire week, even my breakfast coffee, I love the smell of woodsmoke, sharing food around the fire and the flavour – everything seems to taste better!

Secondly, this picture was taken on a night-time photography course in 2009. What you can’t see, is that this group of people had kindly allowed around 15 paparazzi to surround them and their fire to practice taking night time shots – a great testament both to the range of courses you find yourself doing and to the friendliness and helpfulness of the people you meet.

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George Aitchison’s favourite picture

George – I put this little collage together after asking Mors Kochanski to sign my Bushcraft book at the Bushmoot. He asked me what I wanted written in it and I said whatever he felt like. Apart from his signature line of ‘The more you know the less you carry’ he signed it to ‘a fellow instructor’. That one line has stuck with me ever since.

I worked at both Bushmoots Mors attended and as well as me attending his classes he visited some of mine too. We spent many an evening sitting around the fire shooting the breeze and drinking beer. 

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Tony Bristow – Collage from BCUK Members’ pictures

Tony – The Moot is a happy place, it’s also a relaxed place where we’re involved in sharing and creating, discovering and growing while making friendships and memories, where else would you get a group of guys excited about sewing machines, the loveliest pizza hand delivered and kids (actually it’s probably all of us) that go to bed tired, happy and looking forward to the next day of adventures.

Well that is it for me in this series. As Tony said the Moot is a ‘happy place’ so I am looking forward to once again attending this year with my family, seeing my ‘Bushmoot Family’ and having a few adventures along the way. Maybe I’ll see you there.

Cheers

George

Picture of the Week – Week 17 – Fire Face Guardians

Last weekend found me in the New Forest here in Hampshire in the UK. I was with the Sea Cadets and we were running a full on weekend of Adventure Training activities and we were based at Ferny Crofts Campsite.

My picture of the week though goes to a more relaxed moment as some of the cadets were sitting around the campfire toasting some marshmallows under the watchful eye of these fire faces.

Fire Faces
Fire Faces

I will be writing a full report on the weekend sometime soon however I thought I would share just a little bit of what was a magical weekend with you.

Cheers

George

Foraging with Finlay

My little lad Finlay is a member of the Bramley Cub pack and when he was invested recently we received a little book on all the badges they can work towards.

There are badges for hiking, navigation and nature observation (amongst many others) so we decided to get out last Sunday and start earning some.

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Not the usual bimble

Now this was not a usual bimble around the village but a proper hike. Finlay packed his rucksack with water, food, suncream, waterproofs, map, compass and a first aid kit. The manual stipulated that the hike needed to last for at least three hours and have a purpose.

Our hike was to be around Wasing Wood near Tadley in Hampshire and our purpose was to learn to navigate and to forage (and throw in lots of fun in the middle).

Our hike around Wasing Woods
Our hike around Wasing Woods

Very soon we spotted a clump of white flowers which turned out to be three-cornered leeks ( the leaves have three distinct corners) and some very fresh-looking beech leaves.

At this time of year the leaves of certain trees are quite edible, beech being one of them. Over the years Finlay has often foraged with me so I was not worried about him having any sort of reaction to anything he would be nibbling on. The walk was more about him learning the key features of certain plants for future safe identification. We left the leeks alone but had a munch on some of the really fresh beech leaves.

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Leeks and Beech – Spring greens

One tree that Finlay knew well was the oak, but to help him remember its leaf shape we likened its lobed leaf structure to that of his ear lobe. Also we investigated the very fresh-looking gall we found on one of the oaks. There was no hole in it so we concluded that the gall wasp had not hatched yet.

The next tree we came across was the hawthorn and Finlay’s first observation about it was that the leaves were much smaller than the oak leaves and had smaller and sharper lobes. As this is an edible leaf  we were soon munching again.

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Edible and non edible

I introduced Finlay to the Ordnance Survey map for our area and soon he was busy identifying different features on it and tracking our route. We looked at setting the map using features on the ground and using the compass. Also we discussed the scale of the map and features we would expect to find along our route.

We devised a route that was on public footpaths around Wasing Wood (and which had been well documented in a local guide book) however it soon became apparent that the footpaths we were using had been used little recently. The path was overgrown with hawthorn trees and it had also been cut in half by a local business as a testing area for diggers. Soon we were well off our intended route but by looking at the features around us we were able to keep track of where we were.

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Map reading and adventuring – The path that disappeared

It was not all hard work as the hammock seat came out when we stopped for a snack (Finlay got it, not me). As well as trees we spent time identifying flowers.

There were plenty of bluebells, a few wild strawberry flowers but we did get down close to look at some Greater Stitchwort – a beautiful little white flower that has medicinally been used to help with the treatment of broken bones.

Strangely, when we were crossing a stile we came across a pair of boxer shorts lying on the ground. Not sure what to make of this, we hurried quickly along :-).

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Strange and beautiful sites

Now no trip out into the woods is complete without a little extra iron. There were plenty of new-growth nettles around and we picked a few ‘tops’ (the smallest leaves from the very top of the nettle), rolled them up to kill off the needles and munched away.

Finlay is happy to eat nettles now (he takes delight in doing this in front of other kids) though I am still working on him collecting them himself without gloves.

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A little extra iron

Nettles though have a habit of biting you if you do not keep an eye on them 🙂 Finlay was picking a leaf from a ‘Jack by the Hedge’ plant for a little nibble when one of them sneaky nettles popped up and bit him on his arm.

Now a number of years ago he would have let out a loud wail and run about looking for a dock leaf. Now he knows to simply tell me he has been stung and I will grab a couple of the bigger nettle leaves and squish them up to a pulp. It is the juice of the nettle/plantain/dock (to name just a few) leaf that negates the sting – not just rubbing a dry dock leaf on a sting, which I have seen countless people do.

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First Aid and final leg

Before we knew it we had been out for over three and a half hours and diner was calling (Alison had insisted we be back in time for tea as we were expecting visitors). Out came the compass and after another quick lesson we were off through the woods and back to the car.

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Tired but happy

Finlay had collected a few of the leaves from the trees we had studied but they soon wilted with the sun because they were so fresh. He collected holly, oak, hawthorn, birch, beech and sycamore leaves and spotted bluebells, stitchwort, leeks, wild strawberries, Jack-by-the-hedge and nettles.

The purpose of our hike was to study some trees, flowers and learn about the map and compass. I think you could say we managed that.

Cheers

George

David Willis Bushcraft – The Backwoods Baker

Recently I came across a video on You Tube from my friend David Willis who runs his own company called Bushcraft with David Willis. David teaches outdoor living skills, natural history and woodland crafts. I thoroughly enjoyed the video so decided to write this blog post, share the video and tell you a little about this excellent fellow bushcrafter.

David Willis
David Willis

I have known David for a number of years now and met him at a re-union of student who studied under John Rhyder of Woodcraft School fame.

Last year at the BCUK Bushmoot David ran a number of classes for us and the Backwoods Baker class proved to be a hit.  I was photographing lots of classes that morning but kept on coming back to David’s class just to take in the smell of the baking and get the odd morsel or two.

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The BCUK Bushmoot

A week later at the Wilderness Gathering I met David once again and he asked if I could take a few pics of him running a class on Backwoods Baking – needless to say I readily agreed, got some great pictures and some lovely bread.

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The Wilderness Gathering

Keep an eye out on David’s website for his free Family Friendly Guided Woodland Walks. They are becoming increasingly popular and David will guide you through the beauty of the Chiltern Hills.

I am hoping that I’ll see David back once again at the Bushmoot and the Wilderness Gathering but in the meantime here is the video on one of his Backwoods Baker courses to enjoy.

Cheers

George

Shelter building with the Boys

Last weekend I went for a walk in the woods with my lad Finlay and his friend William. I was planning a bit of a hike however I spotted a glade in our local woods where an area has been set aside for kids to build dens.

This post follows the steps I talked the lads through the principles of shelter building. This is not a full on How To…. guide to shelter building but more of an introduction to the principles of it all.

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The principles of shelter building

We had a wander around some of the shelters that had been left up by other groups and talked about the positive elements of each shelter. I find that this focuses the mind on what has worked well and how these elements can be incorporated into any other shelter.

We looked at how high a shelter needed to be, how many walls were really needed, how much thatch was needed and what was needed to keep them warm dependent on different weather conditions.

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The positives

I told the lads that we only had time to build a small shelter (Sunday Dinner was calling) so they found some rope and wood and I showed them how to tie everything together to form a spar. We had no tools at all so had to work with what we had.

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Setting out

After a chat they opted to go for a simple lean to shelter as this they felt would take the least amount off time.

I told them they would need lots of sticks to lean up against the spar (more than they thought) and that they needed to be roughly the same size. After a quick demonstration on how to snap wood using the base of two tree trunks that were close together they were soon hard at work.

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Sizing up

We put a pole on the ground to roughly mark out where each pole should be driven in and soon they had the basic skeleton of the shelter formed.

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The Skeleton

One of the hardest things to get across to them was the need to always have a tidy working area. we had lots of dead wood lying about so I made them clear it all away from the shelter so we had a safe area to work in.

Once that was all done we had a good forage around for some spruce boughs. There were plenty lying around that had been cut down by the foresters for the kids to use (I wish all woods had an area like this).

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Tidying and foraging

After layering some of the spruce boughs onto the skeleton of the shelter I got the boys doing the penguin walk. This is the way I get the kids to gather up lots of leaves in a very short space of time. They would quickly make little piles of leaves and throw them over the spruce boughs.

Once the bottom half was all done they got some more spruce boughs for the top and covered that in leaves as well. Finally to keep the leaves in place they laid a load of small sticks over the leaves (to try and help stop the wind from blowing it all away).

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The layer system

Once they had finished the outside it was time to sort out the interior design. They spent a little while weaving back in all the loose (well some of them) spruce needles back into the thatch.

Once that was done they foraged for some more spruce and made themselves up a little bed to keep themselves off the cold earth.

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Interior design

We did not have permission to have a fire in the woods but that did not stop us from pretending – after all that is what we kids do 🙂

I got them to build themselves a heat reflecting wall in front of the shelter (about two paces from the shelter). They just pushed two sticks into the ground and stacked some logs up against them.

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Reflector wall

All that was left for them to do was construct their long log fire (one step away from the shelter) and relax.

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Fire and finish

This took us about one and a half hours to complete and managed to have fun along the way as well.

As I said this was more about the principles of shelter building (done really to help towards one of their Cubs badges) and not a full on How To…. to building a shelter. If we had more time we would have put about 3 times as much debris over the top, the bed would have been raised up with a much thicker mattress of spruce and the sides would have been closed in.

Oh yeah – and the kettle would have been on 🙂

Cheers

George

One Stormy Night

At the beginning of February this year I drove down the A303 towards Dorset here in the UK in ever worsening weather conditions.

My good friend Fraser Christian of Coastal Survival had organised a meet up of some of the guys who help him out at various events throughout the year. By the time I got to his village the weather had deteriorated to storm conditions.

The pictures below show his parachute getting a right battering and even later on in the shelter of the parachute the airflow really helped shoot the flames of the fire up.

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A Stormy Night

Before going to up to Fraser’s woodland location I met some of the the guys – Fraser, Steve, Si, Danny and Nick in the local pub to have a few beers (and to dry off from the drenching I got from walking from the car park to the pub).

Even though the weather conditions were still extremely poor when we got to Fraser’s woodland site we soon made ourselves comfortable. The food and mulled cider were soon on and I even managed to get a picture of the parachute looking like some sort of downed UFO.

We were joined later in the evening by Tom who is one of the other Coastal Survival instructors. He had cycled his way through the storm to get to us but seemed happy to be out there in the wild conditions (I think that it is a pre-requisite of any outdoors pursuit instructor to show they can be comfortable outdoors whatever the weather throws at them).

Snugness
Snugness

Due to the high winds the flames of the fire kept shooting up, so as usual I had my camera out grabbing some shots of fire faces and figures in the flames. If you look closely you will see a few faces. I can also see a deer and a water buffalo in the left hand picture below.

We spent the evening listening to the wind, catching up on the year gone by and planning trips for the coming months. Around about 10pm the wind dropped sufficiently I felt it safe enough to venture out and put my own hammock and tarp up.

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Fire Faces

I slept for a full ten hours that night and woke the next morning feeling calm and refreshed. The guys already had the kettle on the go so all I needed to do was fill my cup and wait for my breakfast from Fraser.

One thing about working with Fraser is that you never go hungry and I will never get in the way of an expert chef wanting to cook me breakfast :-).

The Clan
A calm morning

As part of our bed and board for the night we agreed to get out and collect some of the brash wood Fraser had stored around his woodland to replace the wood we had used the night before.

We said goodbye to Tom at this stage before stringing up the brash wood to take back to camp.

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Morning re-supply

Once the chores were done I set off on my own to see what flora and fauna were about that morning. Little Tinker always makes for a great shot but I soon found an excellent badger print in the damp ground.

I spooked a deer on my travels through the wood but managed to get one decent long range shot of her as she ran across a field.

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Local fauna

Even though this was early February there was a dash of colour about with the plants.

The teasel was looking particularly majestic with new seeds sprouting  within the previous years seed head. I spotted a number of primroses for the first time this year at Fraser’s and the lesser celandines were  sunning themselves nicely.

Finally I spotted an elder tree covered in some lovely looking jelly fungus.

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Local flora

It was soon time to head home again however the drive back was a delight due to feeling refreshed and the sun was out 🙂

Thanks to Fraser for hosting us for the weekend and the rest of the guys for being such good company.

Cheers

George

The Dovetail Log Rocket Stove – A Video Post

For a while now I have been making Log Rocket Stoves in different ways.

The ones I make in the workshop are easy as all you require is a drill however if you make one in the woods things become more complex. A common theme about these woodland Log Rocket Stoves is that you need something like string or wire to hold everything together.

I thought about this a lot recently and came up with this adaptation of the Log Rocket Stove using green wood dovetail joints.

I will post a full step by step tutorial in the near future in my How To…. section.

Cheers

George

Picture of the Week – Week 9 – Schwedenfeuer

Ok, I know it is supposed to be one picture every week however I thought I needed to zoom in on this one a bit more so I added another for detail.

Many of you know I love to tinker with log rocket stoves so today found me once again working on another design.

Dovetail Log Rocket Stove
Dovetail Log Rocket Stove

I came across an old Swedish design for a log rocket called the Schwedenfeuer (Swedish fire) however like many other log rockets all the parts were held together with wire. As these stoves are supposed to date back to at least the middle ages they had to be held together with something else then.

I came up with the idea to use green wood wedges carved into the stove in a dovetail fashion. They worked perfectly, I got my coffee made and also a video (to follow). I will also be popping a How To…. blog post soon to show how to make one.

Cheers

George

A Bushcraft Birthday

My last trip out for 2015 was a particularly nice one as we were celebrating the 6th birthday of a little bushcraft boy called David. He loves the outdoors and his Grandfather Keith Coleman had organised to celebrate the event out in the woods at Danemead Scout camp.

Keith was also out with a few of his cadets to practice some navigation skills and I was going to practice some bushcraft skills with my friends Dave, Alan and Jess.

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Bushcraft Skills

David’s Mum Maria was who is a good friend of mine was also at the campsite so it was great to catch up with her as we had not met up for a long time.

Keith soon had the candles lit with David and we were soon tucking into a slice of Birthday cake.

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Birthday Boy

Later on the boys Dad Jim turned up with David’s little brother James. Jim has been a good friend of mine for many years so It was good to catch up on goings on again with him. While we were chatting the boys asked if they could light their own fire.

We spent a little while collecting some dry birch bark and small twigs and then got the Firesteels out. I also gave them some cotton wool and Vaseline to help get the fire going as everything was very damp.

It was great to watch the two lads sparking away and then slowly building up their fire until it was well lit. Needless to say when it was time for them to go home they were very reluctant to leave their well nurtured fire.

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Bushcraft with the Boys

While the lads were busy making their fire Dave was busily building a spit to cook a joint of beef on. He stripped a green hazel sapling and put a split through the the middle of it with one end squared off. Then he carved a couple of flat skewers to go through the beef and the split. This method keeps the joint fixed to the hazel rod as it is turned over the fire.

Once that was done he made two uprights to sit the hazel rod in over the fire. One of the uprights had a square notch carved into it for the squared end of the hazel rod to rest in. This ensured that as we turned the it it always remained fixed in the position we had set it.

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Spit making

Dave’s father Alan is an excellent chef and he had been busily working away making up a whole range of different veggie kebabs. After a couple of hours turning the spit dinner was ready.

As we try to be civilised 😉 at these events the cheese board was produced by Keith and a relaxing evening was had around the fire.

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Dinner time

After a very restful sleep in my hammock I was awoke by our chef Alan busily working away around the fire preparing some pancakes for breakfast.

Alan was using my griddle for this job (if you do not own one I would highly recommend that you invest in one) and it was hanging off my Dovetail Crane. This crane is made out of one piece of wood, is easy to make and offers you a wide range of cooking heights.

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Pancakes using the Dovetail Crane

While Keith was off doing some navigation work with his cadets I spent my morning constructing a Damp Wood Log Rocket Stove. These are easy to make and great to get a fire going in damp conditions.

I must thank Jess for helping me at this stage to take a lot of my photographs as my hands were full with constructing the stove. Thankfully Jess is an excellent photographer so I did not need to worry if the right shot was being taken or not leaving me free to concentrate on the stove.

Log Rocket Stove
Log Rocket Stove

All that was left after this was to have a brew and pack up for the trip home. This was an excellent trip to round my year off amongst friends, eating well and celebrating the birthday of a budding bushcrafter.

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Brew time

Cheers

George

10 Reasons to Bushmoot – 9/10 – The Naughty Corner

No series on the Bushcraft UK Bushmoot would be complete without a mention of ‘Ye Naughty Corner’ – I will refer to it as the NC in the rest of the post.

The NC is many things to many different people who visit the Bushmoot. There is usually a fire on the go at most hours however it is in the evening that the NC really livens up. Some folk love the place and spend a lot of time there, some folk just pop in for a visit every now and then, however some folk steer well clear as it can be busy and noisy. I personally like to visit the NC of an evening and catch up on the days goings on around the fire while enjoying a medicinal tot or two.

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Ye Naughty Corner (top left picture courtesy of Susannah Parsons)

Cap’n Badger and Mad Dave (our resident Pirates) normally manage the NC though Dave had to miss the Bushmoot last year. The NC has been around for a number of years now and it has grown in size as each year has passed. Some say that is a good thing and others do not – you will need to decide for yourself.

It has always been a noisy place in the evenings (folks are warned about it if they camp near it for the first time) and as a regular over the years I am quite comfortable there however as the feel of the NC has changed from a small to a big community some folk have drifted off elsewhere on an evening.

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Set up and the managers (Top and bottom right pictures courtesy of BCUK)

The central point of the NC is the fire and it makes for a great woodland TV. On some of the busy nights you will be lucky to get anywhere near it however if there is a decent stock of wood it is soon lit up well. I have snapped many a fire face picture in these flames over the years.

One thing you are guaranteed is the option to try out a number of different tipples while sitting around the fire. There is usually a bottle or two of Kraken rum, meade, port or whisky making the rounds to try. The nost memorable one for me was when I was passed a bottle of Dave Budd’s Chilli rum – never to be forgotten.

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A place to relax in the evening (Top picture courtesy of Susannah Parsons)

I think one of the reasons the NC has become so popular is that there is usually some music and food on the go.

Initially folks would cook there own food and come along to the NC for a drink and a chat. Nowadays our resident Phil is on the go all night cooking and serving a wide range of excellent food (we do run a group kitty to cover the cost of the food).

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Great food and great music (Bottom picture courtesy of BCUK)

A couple of years ago Tim Neobard ran a class at the NC to build a cob oven for baking pizzas. The pizzas proved to be very popular with the residents of the NC so everyone was looking forward to having some pizzas the following year.

When we returned last year we found that someone had decided to destroy the pizza oven. Un-dettered Neil re-built the oven this year out of brick instead of cob so hopefully it will be there this year.

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Constructions (Top right picture courtesy of BCUK)

I like to pop by the NC during the day to see what is going on. Sometimes it is pretty quiet as folk are off at all the classes however sometimes you will find a class or two going on at the NC.

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Classes (Top left picture courtesy of BCUK)

A few years ago one of our regular NC residents Drew Dunn passed away in a road traffic accident. This tragic loss really affected many of us at the Bushmoot as we had grown to love Drew. When I met Drew for the first time his first words to me were ‘Where can I find the Naughty Corner’.

Drew loved the NC so much that Cap’n Badger and Mad Dave organised the planting of a tree and plaque in his honour. The tree and plaque sit just behind the NC where Drew used to camp.

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In memory (Bottom right picture courtesy of BCUK)

The NC does throw up some strange sights I must admit. A few years ago this massive net was strung up and it was termed the Mammock. I have no idea how many folk got crammed into the Mammock in the end but it proved a star attraction.

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The memorable Mammock (Picture courtesy of Mad Dave Delaney)

Each year a fancy dress themed night is run. Last year it was Monty Python, the year before it was a Victorian explorer theme and I think next year it is a horror theme.

Not something I have gotten round to doing but there are plenty of folks who do and they do put in a lot of effort to look the part.

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A different theme every year (Top right picture courtesy of Susannah Parsons)

As the evening gets on though the reason why the NC corner gets its name starts to become apparent. It might be that you find yourself getting covered in lots of little clothes pegs if you are not careful, you may inadvertently get passed the bottle of chilli vodka, or you may get buckarooed if you fall asleep.

There is an skill to buckarooing as you need a steady hand. The poor soul who is asleep has tins of beer (empty) and pegs (and other adornments) heaped on top of them before a picture is taken. Everything is then taken away so that when the poor soul wakens up they are none the wiser until they see the picture the next day.

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It can get naughty (Bottom right picture courtesy of BCUK)

I appreciate that the NC is not for everyone as it can be a busy and noisy place however I personally like to spend an hour or two of an evening there.

To me it is one of the highlights of my year where I can relax and have a bit of fun while catching up with my friends.

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Light in the night

There are plenty of campfires to visit at the Bushmoot where you can sit and relax and chat. The NC is just another one of them however it is one of the livelier ones.

Maybe see you there this year.

Cheers

George

Candles, Rockets and Long Fires

It has been a dream of mine to one day head on over to Scandinavia to practise my bushcraft skills, particularly in winter time. Time and money have so far not allowed me to do that however that has not stopped me from researching some of the ways of lighting fires in the snow or wet conditions.

I have seen many a Scandinavian (sometimes referred to as Swedish candles though Finnish seems the origin for many ) candle at bushcraft meets that have been carved using a chainsaw however I do not own one. My research showed me that chainsaws were not required and there are many other ways to light a fire in the snow or on wet ground other than candles, such as long fires and log rocket stoves.

This post brings together all my posts over the last couple of years on this subject. You will find if you click on the title for each section it will bring you to a more detailed post on making these fires.

Finnish/Swedish Candle – No Chainsaw

Trawling You Tube one evening a few years ago I came across a video titled the Log Stove from Hobbexp. Up until that point I thought to make a candle you needed a chainsaw. Hobbexp showed me that you could make a perfectly good candle with just an axe and some kindling.

The one below was made using a birch log and stuffed with birch bark and spruce resin (and a couple of battoned-down pieces of green wood to keep the splits open). These candles can burn for a good couple of hours, are easy to set up and look great. I have no idea how many I have made over the last couple of years.

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Finnish/Swedish Candle – No Chainsaw

Multi Rod Finnish/Swedish Candle

I got another idea for a candle during my research once again from You Tube from ‘bushcraftmyway’ titled the swedish torch/stove – my way.  I liked this stove as it could be made from damp wood (ideal in the UK).

I tied some seasoned but damp birch rods together with bramble strips and willow bark then stuffed in tiny pieces of kindling and Vaseline-coated cotton wool. I decided to use the Vaseline and cotton wool so as to give the damp wood a chance to dry out.

After a bit of tender care the wood started to dry out and I easily managed to boil a kettle on it. This is an excellent way to get a fire going in damp/wet conditions. The remains of the candle after it had burnt down provided me with a great bed of coals to maintain a more traditional firelay.

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Multi Rod Finnish/Swedish Candle

Finnish/Swedish Candles – A Comparison

All this research led me to compare this rod style of candle with the more commonly split log candle. I set up the rod candle this time with very dry rods and split a spruce log with my axe into a number of wedges.

I tied them all together with natural cordage and lit them. The rod candle took off very quickly as it was stuffed full of very fine kindling however the split log candle lasted longer as it took longer to fully get going.

Again I managed to easily boil a kettle on both of these candles. Both are simple and easy to make.

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Finnish/Swedish Candles – A comparison

Rappanan Tuli Candle

The idea for this one came from Perkele’s Blog Spot but the post is no longer available. I think this candle is regarded by many as the original Finnish Candle.

A log is split from top to bottom and pieces from the central core are then axed out to act as kindling. Lots of cuts are made into the inner faces of the candle to give the flames plenty of surface area to catch onto.

It took me a while to get the flames self sustaining, but once they’d caught the candle worked well. It looked precarious as the two pieces of wood are not lashed together but they stayed upright till the end.

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Raappanan tuli candle

Rakovalkea Gap Fire

The Rakovalkea Gap fire hails from Finland and I was taught a similar method by my friend Kevin Warrington (Laplanders Natural Lore) back in 2007. I came across the term Rakovalkea around about 2011 after seeing pictures of this fire being made by the Finnish army on the internet.

This is a scaled-down model I made however it was fully functioning and its set up makes for a long burn time with easy adjustment to increase or decrease the flames. This has proved to be the most most popular post on my website.

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Rakovalkea Gap Fire

Wood Gas Stove

I decided to include this little fella as it is excellent for cooking in damp or wintry conditions. It is a wood gas stove and burns very efficiently. I was shown this by my friend Ian Woodham back in 2011 at the Bushcraft UK Bushmoot. As soon as I got home I made one up and documented it on my blog.

I made this out of a metal paint pot, a large dog food tin, a Fray Bentos pie tin and a few bits and bobs. It works a treat and needs very little fuel to keep it going. I like to use dry seasoned pine/spruce/larch cones in the stove as they burn for a good length of time.

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Wood Gas Stove

Drilled Log Rocket Stoves

The next type of candle I came across was what has been termed the log rocket stove. I spotted a video by James Hookway and soon set to work in my workshop creating 3 stoves from different woods.

Log rocket stoves really intrigued me as they require very little kindling to keep them going (the damper the log the more kindling you require).

Have a look at the original post here to see how they compared.

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Drilled Log Rocket Stoves

Log Rocket Fire Faces

Now the kids love this stove – whenever you are having a barbie in the garden or if you are having a family camp make one or two of these up.

The principles are the same as the log rocket in the previous post except for the faces you can carve on them. Once they get going the faces really light up. They are perfectly able to be used as a normal log rocket stove for cooking or boiling but have the extra appeal factor of the face. A good video on this is the one made by Marcels Workshop.

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Log Rocket Fire Faces

Damp Log Rocket using an Axe

Log rocket stoves have always appealed to me as a woodsman however when I am lightweight camping I do not fancy carrying around pre-prepared ones. Recently on Facebook Paul Hasling posted an article on making one with an axe and saw with no need for a drill. One of the other Scout leaders posted up a step by step guide on making one but it is in Spanish – the pictures though speak for themselves – Rocket Stove de Madeira.

I was instantly attracted to this method however when I was next out in the woods I could only find damp logs. To overcome this I split the log into six pieces and added Raappanan tuli cuts inside the chimney. This damp log rocket stove took slightly longer to get going as the internal wood slowly dried but once it was going there was no stopping it.

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Damp Log Rocket Stove using an Axe

Log Rocket using a Knife

The final post in this series came to me one evening when I was wondering how I could operate in the woods without an axe. I figured it was worth a go trying to make a log rocket stove with just my Mora knife (I did use a small saw to trim the log).

With some battoning and the use of a wooden wedge I was able to split a decent sized log and fashion a perfectly good log rocket stove.

This exercise really is an excellent way to test out your knife skills.

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Log Rocket using a Knife

Is the story over on candles, long fires and log rocket stoves? – I think not. I will continue to research this intriguing subject and if you have any ideas that I could try out to add to this library of knowledge I would really appreciate hearing from you.

Cheers

George

Bows and Atlatls – My Set

It has been 8 or 9 years now since I started making my own bows and Atlatls. In that time I have enjoyed making a number of different types and have brought them all together in this post. I am no expert in making them however I do like to carve them.

If you want to know how to make any of these tools just click on the title for each section to see a detailed How To…. guide on making them. This post will concentrate on my thoughts on them through my own personal use and that of my students.

Father & Son Bow (Penobscot or Wabanaki bow)

I have probably made at least a dozen of these quick bows and taught many students to make them since 2009. They take no more than a couple of hours to make and are quite powerful for green wood bows. I normally use two hazel or ash rods taped together to make them.

I learnt how to make them after watching a You Tube video by Mark Emery (Sussex Woodsman) who is an expert woodsman.

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Father & Son Bow

The bow themselves are very light in terms of poundage (20 to 30lbs in draw weight) but on a high arc I can generally get them to shoot an arrow 60 to 70 metres. I usually shoot them on short ranges of less than 20 metres in the woods.

These have proven a massive hit at the Bushcraft UK Bushmoot and there has been a class run on them since 2009 with folks of all ages making them. I particularly like to see a family making one and then coming down to the range of an evening to shoot. I still have ones I made all these years ago and they still shoot well.

Ash Flatbow

This was the very first bow I made back in 2008 on a Bushcraft Instructors course with John Rhyder of Woodcraft School.

As a group we felled an ash tree , split it into staves and carved our own bows. We did this over two weekends with a month in-between so allowing the stave to season before the tillering process. The ash flatbow has to be made wider than it is deeper due to its deep rings however if it is tillered well it will still shoot fast.

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Ash Flatbow

This bow comes in at about 40 lbs in draw weight and has a tendency to ‘twat’ the inside of your forearm so a arm guard is a must.

I give this bow mostly to adults to shoot because of its draw weight but with a good eye and a steady hand she can be very accurate. I started shooting right handed as that is how I was taught to shoot a rifle many years ago however my friend Charlie Brookes suggested one day to try left handed shooting and suddenly I started to hit the target. I am left handed and left eye dominant but the muscle memory from using a rifle made it difficult to shoot left handed at first – however with a lot of practice that has gone, so I am now happy to shoot with either hand.

The Bhutanese Bow

I made this bow about four years ago at the BCUK Bushmoot and was taught by Wayne Jones (Forest Knights). It is similar to the ash bow in that it is wider than it is deeper however it is made out of two pieces of bamboo (the HowTo…. goes into detail of why two pieces are used).

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Bhutanese Bow

Traditionally the two pieces would be joined together with wooden pins and strapping but on the day all we had was tape. In the courses Wayne runs nowadays he uses the pins and strapping.

It is quite a light bow (about 30lbs in draw weight) however it has the advantage of being made very quickly (a couple of hours in competent hands).

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Bhutanese Bow

Another unusual feature of this bow is that the hard outer shell of the bamboo becomes the Belly (the part of the bow facing you when shooting) of the bow and the softer inner part of the bamboo becomes the Back of the bow (the part of the bow facing away from you when shooting). I am told that this is to do with the characteristics of the bamboo – because it is a grass technically and not wood.

The Holmegaard Bow

This is my favourite bow. I carved it while doing a Primitive Technology course at Woodcraft School.

I carved the bow based on the dimensions of the ones found in the peat bogs at Holmegaard in Denmark. The bow has the lower parts of its limbs shaped wider than they are deeper much like the ash flatbow. The upper parts of the limbs are more ‘D’ shaped so making them stiffer but thinner than the lower parts of the limbs.

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Holmegaard Bow

This unusual shape works well with ash as it is not a particularly strong wood for thin bows. The wide lower limbs give it strength while the thinner and stiffer ‘D’sectioned tips allow the limbs to shoot forward at a very fast speed so making it an excellent hunting bow where you get fairly close to your prey..

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Holmegaard Bow

I also decided to make the nocks out of rawhide and spruce pitch rather than carving them in.  I did this as some Holmegaard bows have been found with no nocks carved into them. Whether they had bone nocks attached or rawhide as I experimented with will probably never be known but they work well.

This bow is a favourite amongst the children I teach as they can draw it easy. Personally I just love the shape of the bow and it shoots well for me,

Atlatls

I have written a number of posts on these little devices. When asked about them by children I teach I liken them to these modern ball throwing devices dog walkers use nowadays. So if you imagine replacing the ball with a spear (technically called a dart) you will get the idea.

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My Atlatl Set

The set is made up of two parts – the Atlatl (the throwing device) as shown below and a dart (seen above). My post on the Atlatl goes into detail on the history of them and the different designs you can find.

The ones below are very simple ones. The left hand one has been carved from a hazel rod and the one on the right is from a piece of yew with an antler tip attached by sinew and spruce pitch.

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Basic Atlatls

Lovelock Cave Atlatl

I have tried to make a number of different Atlatls over the years and a favourite of mine is called the Lovelock Cave Atlatl (named after where it was found in the USA). I came across some drawings of this Atlatl on the web and set about making one.

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Lovelock Caver Atlatl

It was thought to have had a bone or wooden point at the end to attach the dart to it but I experimented with just cordage. This seems to work quite well however there is no archaeological records that this adaptation was ever used.

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Lovelock Caver Atlatl

One Stick Atlatl

I set myself a challenge a while back to produce a split stick Atlatl from just one piece of willow and limited myself to just my primitive tools.

I scraped and carved the wood with my flint knife and used the bark as cordage. It turned out to be quite a nifty little Atlatl in the end.

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One Stick Atlatl

Atlatl with a Rest

I carved this Atlatl after reading about hunters in Arctic environments using this type of Atlatl. The rest allows the hunter to wear a glove while waiting to shoot the dart. The dart has a piece of cordage wrapped tightly around it that is pushed up against the rest so fixing the dart in place. With a quick flick the dart is away with no ill effect on its flight.

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Atlatl with a Rest

Thats it for me on bows and Atlatls (unless I make some more).

Cheers

George

Campfire Cooking Contraptions

I had a great time constructing contraptions to use around the campfire last year so I thought a little summary post of them all was in order.

This post is not about how to construct any of the contraptions themselves (I will link to the relevant How To…. guides in the title of each section) but my personal thoughts on them. I appreciate campfire gadgets are not for everyone and they may be seen as overcomplicating the cooking process however I think they are great fun to construct.

Raised Firepit/platform
Before building any gadgets it is good to have an actual fire. I was asked to help build a raised firepit/platform by my friend John Rhyder at the Woodcraft School training area. John wanted a dedicated area for his students to cook on without having to bend down too far.
After a lot of discussion with his wife Caron we opted for a rectangular shape instead of a square. Caron argued that this shape would give a large cooking area but would be safer than a square, as the students would not have to stretch too far to reach the centre of the fire. This is an ideal construction for a fixed-base camp, with plenty of room to cook on and to sit around.

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Raised Firepit

Collapsible pot hanger
I love little wooden contraptions and these little collapsible pot hangers are ideal for the lightweight bushcrafter. They can be made in numerous different ways and are easily broken down to be stored inside your pot. One of the things I like about carving them is that the joints that hold them together are generally simple but need to be carved perfectly if the hanger is to take the weight of a heavy pot without coming apart.

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Collapsible pot hook

Wagon/Waugan Stick or Burtonsville Rig
This is an excellent cooking rig for bushcraft beginners to learn. It has lots of different parts and requires a number of different knife cuts to produce the hanger and the hanging poles. I have heard this set up called many different names from Waygon or Waugan stick and Mors Kochanski refers to it as the Burtonsville rig. All have their own stories behind them however the common factor is that it a very easy set up and offers the bushcrafter a wide range of cooking heights.

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Wagon/Waugan Stick or Burtonsville Rig

Double French Windlass
The Double French Windlass is a cracking cooking rig. I was taught this by my friend Steve ‘Mesquite’ Harral at the Bushcraft UK Bushmoot a number of years ago. I used it at this year’s Bushmoot for two weeks and it allowed me to cook with a number of different pots at one time with the ability to have them all at different cooking heights.

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Double French Windlass

Single Fork Aures
I read in the Wildwood Wisdom book of a type of adjustable crane first documented in the early 20th century by a Scout Master called Victor Aures. It is a simple device however it is reliant on finding a branch with a specific set of smaller branches off it. I discovered a variation on this crane a number of years ago that required only a single fork in the branch and after a bit of splitting and splicing you have a fully adjustable crane.

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Single Fork Aures Crane

Gibbet Aures Crane
This variation on the Aures crane does not rely on splitting the wood but on the addition of other branches so that the whole thing hangs off your upright pole. It is easy to find all the parts which is probably why this is the version of the Aures cranes I most commonly see around campfires.

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Gibbet Aures Crane

Classic Aures Crane
It took me a long time to find the perfect combination of branches for this crane. I have never seen another one before except as a drawing in the Wildwood Wisdom book. The hardest part in making this crane is the thinning of the wood to create the loop. It is a real challenge but also very enjoyable and satisfying.

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Classic Aures Crane

The Three Cranes
I really liked making these cranes and would encourage you to have a go at them if you like campfire projects. They are not for you if you prefer simply to put your pot on the fire, but if you like to tinker and experiment, have a go.

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The Three Aures Cranes

Notched Crane
The idea for this crane came to me a number of years ago while making myself up a little squirrel cooker from some metal rods. I have cut the notch out using an auger in the past but nowadays I usually just use my knife. I like this set up as you can make your crane out of one pole. With the addition of an adjustable pot hanger you have a crane that offers a variety of cooking heights without having a bulky tripod set up over the fire.

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The Notched Crane

Simple Dovetail Crane
I got this idea from a Scouting page a number of years ago and it is very simple and quick to carve. The part that takes the longest to make is the adjustable pot hanger. I would recommend if you decide to experiment with making these cranes that you start with this one as the dovetail notch is so easy to cut out.

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Simple Dovetail Crane

Lap Joint Crane
Still sticking with the single pole theme, another easy crane to make is the Lap Joint crane. The main thing to remember is to make sure that the squared-off fit of the upright is consistent along its length with the notch in the arm.

Once weight (eg a pot) is applied to the end of the arm, everything locks together. I have found that this crane works best when the pot is hung off the very end of the arm. I have experimented with hanging the pot half way along the arm only to find it all collapses. It is a good and simple crane to make – treat this one with respect, though.

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Lap Joint Crane

Dovetail Crane
This is my all-time favourite crane. With the dovetail notch the arm cannot fall off (unlike the Lap Joint crane) and it offers a wide variety of heights to choose from when cooking. The arm is very easy to adjust even when there is a pot attached and will take you no more than an hour to carve.

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Dovetail Crane

Heavy Duty Crane
This one came about from an article I spotted in a Scouting site. Some of the Dutch Oven pans I use can be extremley heavy. This crane offers a number of different cooking heights and will not bend in the slightest even with the heaviest pot attached (well, the heaviest I have, at least). I have though learned to take the pot off the arm with this one before changing the height.

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Heavy Duty Crane

Mortice and Tenon Crane
This was the last crane I worked on last year and the one that is the most technical, I think. The joint is a simple tenon and mortice set up however there were a lot of angles to consider (I have discussed then in the article) and the string I used to adjust the height could possibly do with further development. It is however an excellent crane with lots of movement up and down and side to side.

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The Mortice and Tenon Crane

In time I hope to add a few more How To’s…. to this series as I find the whole subject of campfire contraptions so fascinating.

Cheers

George

How To…. Build a Damp Wood Log Rocket Stove

When the weather is inclement and the ground is really wet then the option of making a rocket stove needs to be considered.

This How To…. sets out the steps I took on a wet and windy December morning to make a Damp Wood Log Rocket Stove with only the tools I normally carry in my rucksack.

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The damp wood log rocket

I have dabbled with making different types of Finnish Candles for cooking on and they are excellent for when the ground is wet. Over the years I have also experimented with making Log Rocket stoves but restricted my activities to the workshop as I used drills to make them.

I recently stumbled on an idea on Facebook from the 1st Facebook Scout Group by Paul Hasling. This is the first time I have seen a log rocket stove done without the use of drills so I was instantly taken with the idea. Another Scout instructor José Xavier put Paul’s pictures together into a quick helpcard called the Rocket Stove de Madeira. This is a very simple design where a log is split four ways, a chimney and firetray are carved out and it is all put back together again with string. I will certainly be showing my Sea Cadets how to make one.

First though I wanted to make one when out in the woods with only what was to hand. It being December, there was nothing that was bone dry so I found a dead Birch and cut a section off. It was still damp to the touch, however it had been dead for over a year so it was slightly seasoned.

Splitting

For the job I had my knife, saw, axe and a pen. Using another round of wood I split the log in half by battoning it with my axe (keep the blade of the axe at 90 degrees to your body when you do this).

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Tools and battoning

After splitting the log in half I split each half into three even sections. With very dry wood you only need halve the halves again to make four sections however my wood was damp so I wanted to produce as much surface area as possible which is why I opted for six sections.

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The splits

Stop Cuts

Using a stick and a pen I marked a line on each section about a quarter of the way from the bottom and also numbered each section. These marks were put in so that I could cut in stop cuts so to make it easy for me to cut out the chimney section.

My friend Keith Coleman suggested using tape as a depth gauge for this and it worked a treat, with each stop cut ending up the same depth.

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Stop cuts

Creating the Chimney

Using the tape as a gauge again I marked a line at the top of each split section and then, using my knife, battoned off the excess wood.

The stop cuts help as the split does not travel all the way to the bottom and so creates a lintel that the fire will sit in.

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Battoning out the chimney

After a little bit of whittling with my knife each segment had the wood removed so that the chimney would be formed when it was all put back together.

It is important to keep all the shavings and little chunks of wood from this process as it can be used as kindling for the stove.

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Trimming the chimney

The Raappanan Tuli style

Now the secret of making damp wood burn is to produce as much surface area as possible for the flame to catch. I learnt this from researching and making the Finnish Raappanan Tuli candle.

On the inside of each segment cut as many burrs as you can so that the flame from your kindling has something to catch onto. I tried out different types of cuts here and some were easier to carve than others – your wood will soon tell you what works well.

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The Raappanan Tuli style

The Firebox

Next up is the opening for the firebox. I selected two segments that fit together (having them numbered really helped here) and marked out with a pen two rectangular areas just above the sill I’d created. I made sure the marking went all the way round to the other side of each segment.

I then used a saw to cut into the wood in the shaded area. Do as many cuts as you can as this makes it easier to remove this waste wood.

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Carving the firebox – stage 1

I then used my saw at an angle to cut out the wood and finished the job off with my knife.

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Carving the firebox – stage 2

When finished the idea is that you want an access point big enough to put your kindling into the firebox area at the bottom of the chimney.

I found some old sisal string tied to a tree and used that to tie everything back together. It was pretty damp anyway and I hoped that would last longer than the copious amounts of paracord I tend to carry around with me. I think some thin wire would be the ideal thing to use though.

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Firebox and all wrapped up

From the top you can see how wide the chimney was. I have no idea what would be the optimal size to have so you may need to experiment for yourself.

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The chimney

Firing Up

As the wood was so damp I decided to go for the sure-fire method of lighting the stove up – good old cotton wool and Vaseline. This worked well however I needed to use 4 Vaseline-coated cotton wool balls to maintain the fire.

I have used shredded birch bark mixed with spruce resin on a number of occasions to light Finnish candles before but I didn’t have the time to collect the resin this time.

Once the fire had started I added tinder/kindling down through the chimney and in through the firebox. The main thing at this stage is to not over-fill the firebox but allow the airflow to be maintained. It means about 10 minutes of work but the damp wood inside the chimney area will dry out and the overall heat of the fire will increase.

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Firing up

Maintaining the Fire

I placed three pebbles on the top of the stove for the kettle to sit on securely.

The gap created by the pebbles also allows you to drop tinder/kindling down the chimney. I like to use strips of birch bark here as it is so pliable and flammable.

If the wind is low or changes direction you may need to get down low and blow directly into the firebox to keep the fire going. Once the wood has dried out a bit you will not need to do this so much.

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Maintaining the heat

I gave the stove about 10 minutes before putting the kettle on and then in about 15 minutes the kettle was boiling. Not as fast as modern stoves but for what is in effect a wet log not bad.

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Waiting for the kettle to boil

I have to thank Jess Edwards for a number of these pictures at the end. Jess is a great photographer and keen bushcrafter so it was great to concentrate for once on the tinkering and leave the photography aspect in someone else’s capable hands.

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Brew time

Observations

Once the coffee was made I was able to have a good look at what was happening with the stove. As I looked closely I could see the moisture in the wood boiling off. If you look in the bottom picture you can see the water boiling away on the surface.

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Drying off

The stove kept going for another hour before I had to put it out as we were leaving.

Overall I was very impressed with this Log Rocket stove with the Raappanan Tuli twist and I will be using it again on my courses.

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A glorious farewell

Thanks again to the Scouts for documenting this stove – I hope you like my little twist on it?

Cheers

George

10 Reasons to Bushmoot – 4/10 – All Things Archery

My annual holiday to the BCUK Bushmoot would not be complete without a bit of bow making and some time down on the range.

About ten years ago I was introduced to bowmaking by my friend Bardster (Paul Bradley). Bardster used to run workshops at the Moot which were always well attended. I then studied under John Rhyder of Woodcraft School and made a number of different bows from Ash Flatbows, Holmegaards and the Father & Son bow.

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Bushmoot Archery

The Father & Son Bow

I introduced to the Moot a number of years ago the Father and Son bow (I had learnt this of my friend Mark Emery of Kepis Bushcraft) This is a ‘quickie’ bow to make and comprises two rods (usually hazel) strapped together. The bows take only an hour or two to make if you know what you are doing although they may take up to a day to make if you are new to it all.

I have run quite a few classes over the years at the Moot on the Father & Son bow. As you can see in the pictures below they were large classes.

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The Father & Son bow

Nowadays Chris Pryke runs this class and it is well attended each year. The bows if made properly can last you years. I still have and use my first one which is over 6 years old now.

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In new hands

I have had hours and hours of fun making and using these bows over the years. They are cheap to make, very accurate with practice (normally I shoot them between 10 and 20 metres) and will shoot on a high arc about 60 to 70 metres.

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Father & Son Bow in action

The Bhutanese Bow

One of our long-term members is Wayne Jones of Forest Knights bushcraft school. Wayne is an expert bowyer and taught me a few years ago to make a Bhutanese bow. This type of bow is made of a large piece of bamboo and relatively quick to make (about half a day I think it took me)

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The Bhutanese Bow

The bow is constructed of two separate pieces of bamboo joined in the centre. The join can be with, tape, cord or with pins.

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Building the Bhutanese bow

Most folk who start one of these bows can be found down on the range in the evening.

We started the range at the Moot about six years ago. it is well away from all the camping areas surrounded by wooded sand dunes. There are two Bhutanese bows in the top picture below in action and I am holding one in the bottom picture below.

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Bhutanese bows in action

Traditional Bows

Wayne sometimes runs workshops similar to the ones Bardster did in the past making more traditional style flatbows. I hope to one day make time to study under Wayne as it has been a few years since I have made an Ash  Flatbow.

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Classic bows

The Mini Bow

The final type of bow that is produced at the Moot is the Mini bow. Wayne uses the large pieces of bamboo he brings along for the Bhutanese bows to also make these very small Mini bows. The kids absolutely (and a few adults) love them.

They do not take long to make and are small enough to be made as one piece.

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The Mini bow

Different Bows

On the range you will see a wide variety of bows in action from the traditional (top two have my Ash Flatbow and my Holmegaard in use.

Below them are some of the modern bows people bring along to the Moot. Some are very powerful and come with all manner of attachments. When it comes to the competition we hold we do not mind what type of bow you use as long as it does not have extras such as stabilisers, sights or gears attached.

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Old and new

I am always intrigued with the different bows that appear and was particularly interested in the Mongol style bow Lisa had brought along as I had never seen one before (bottom right).

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Bows in all sizes

Each evening during the Moot (and sometimes during the day) a few of us troop down to the range for a shoot. Running the range is usually Cap’n Badger, Paul Pomfrey, Ian Woodham and myself.

We try and balance the time between teaching novices and letting the ‘Old and Bold’ have time to keep their eye in. After a full days teaching bushcraft having to do this can initially feel like a chore to me however once I have shot in a few arrows it can be quite relaxing, especially after a very busy day.

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Hard contests

Competition day happens usually in the second week of the Moot and it gets very competitive. We normally run two competitions, one for the kids and one for the adults. They have to shoot at different ranges and are closely marked by the referees as there are usually some very good prizes up for grabs.

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Over the years

Afterwards when all the scores have been tallied up the thing I really like about this time down on the range is how good natured everyone is.

The winners get first dibs at the prizes (everyone brings a prize for the pot with a few extras donated) however everybody walks away with a prize at the end.

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Having fun

I have been to many different types of bushcraft shows, courses and meetings over the years but it is only at the BCUK Bushmoot that I see such a wide range of archery on display.

Cheers

George

Bushcraft Fun with Enfield Juniors

Sometimes in your life a little trip comes along that really lifts your spirits. This happened to me last September when my good friend Dave Lewis invited me along to a camp he had organised for Enfield Sea Cadet unit. The camp was at Tolmers Activity Centre near Potters Bar (just North of London) and turned out to be a quite magical weekend.

Dave was leading a training session for his older cadets for the upcoming Chosin Cup competition and he wanted me to work with his Junior cadets on their campcraft skills. After setting up camp I spotted a load of folks heading down to a small pond so I decided to follow on and see what was afoot.

As I approached the pond I could hear a story being told about the ‘Lady in the Lake’ and all of a sudden the skies lit up. As I was just approaching the pond at that time I managed to get these two cracking shots of the fireworks going off.

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Friday fireworks and our playground

In the morning I took the cadets with some other staff members out towards Northaw Great Wood (a local nature reserve). Along the way we had to scramble over some tricky terrain but managed to have a bit of fun when we found an old World War 2 Pillbox.

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Scramble and a dance

Once we got into the woods we found a lovely spot by a dried out stream to try out our hammocks. The Juniors had never tried hammocks before but soon got into the ‘Swing’ of things.

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Chillaxing

Our task on the weekend was to introduce the Juniors to basic Adventure Training skills such as using the map and compass, and to get an understanding of their natural surroundings.

So as we were learning to use the map and compass we carried a Journey stick with us. This stick had string and elastic bands wrapped around it so that we could add different items we found along the way to it.

The aim of the Journey stick was to ensure that the Juniors kept a good look out for different plants and objects so that they could add some of them to the stick and so tell a story of their journey when they had finished at the end of the day.

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Green module learning

In amongst all this learning we took time out to climb the odd tree or two and just relax (the staff just tended to relax though).

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In touch with nature

We spotted many different types of flaura and fauna on our travels and played a little naming game on the way. I got the Juniors to spot different trees and name them something they all agreed on – so the Sycamore became the Star tree, the Ash tree was named the Centipede and so on. They would walk through the woods shouting “There’s a Star tree” or “There’s another Centipede”.

At the end of the day I gave them a chart so that they could figure out their given names. This method I find works well as I find that kids learn best when they are having fun along the way.

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Journey stick stuff

When we got back to camp we had a very full Journey stick with no two items the same. The Juniors really worked hard to finish the stick and each took it in turn to walk with it.

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The Journey stick

Back at camp we had a very busy campfire on the go with some great food being prepared by Alan and Dave Lewis. On the Saturday night we had a barbie and marshmallows, and each morning Alan cooked a fantastic breakfast with some lovely pancakes.

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Bust campfire

On the Saturday I had taught the Juniors how to light a fire using Firesteels so on the Sunday they all helped me to get an ember using the bowdrill. Each junior took part and we soon had a great big glowing ember.

One Junior said that he had watched the recent programme by a ‘well known survivalist’ where it had taken the contestants two days to get a fire going so he was over the moon to get an ember in just a couple of minutes.

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Team bowdrill

Once the ember was stable we popped it into a tinder bundle and everyone took it in turn to blow it into flame.

I think the smiles on their faces kind of say it all about the experience they just had.

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Flammage

Once we got the fire going properly Alan Lewis took the juniors on a cookery class. He got them to cook sausages over the fire and then to make up a bread mix. The bread mixture was then wrapped around the cooked sausages and in no time they all had their own hand made sausage rolls.

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Morning cooking

While the Juniors were cooking their sausage rolls I wandered over to where Dave was working with his older cadets. They were practising some ropework to set up a retrievable rope system for crossing a river. All this was in preparation for the forthcoming Chosin Cup competition in early October.

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Older cadets practising for Chosin Cup

To finish the course off for the Juniors I set up the Atlatl range on an open slope. It was not long before they got a hang of this primitive hunting technique and were soon landing darts on the targets.

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An Atlatl finish

I finished the weekend still feeling as fresh as I started. It is not often I can say that about Sea Cadet weekends (I usually need a day or two to get over them) but the juniors were so keen to learn and were a real bright and keen bunch that I look forward to being invited again next year.

Cheers

George

How To…. Carve a Simple Dovetail Crane

Simple, quick to make, tidy and strong

My search to find and document as many different campfire cranes brought me to this simple type of dovetail crane. I first came across this idea from a blog post by Ken Cole Jr on the Scout Pioneering site.  I expanded on their idea with adding an adjustable pot hanger to the crane.

It is similar in concept to the Cooking Crane I documented previously except that the socket on the upright is created by cutting into the side of it instead of through the middle of the upright. This leads to a far quicker construction time.

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Simple Dovetail Crane

I also like these vertical campfire cranes as there is little for people to trip up on around the campfire and  like my previous post on the adjustable dovetail crane this simpler version is built using just a single pole.

Trimming

I used a sycamore pole on I had on hand trimmed it into two pieces using my folding saw.

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One pole trimmed to size

The larger pole you can see below was destined to be the upright and the thinner piece was to be the cranes arm.

The arm

I started work on the arm first carving a triangular end on one side. I took my time here to make all the sides even in shape.

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Carving the triangular bed of the arm

Once the arm had the correct shape carved out I used it as a template to mark out the dovetail socket I would cut into the upright.

The upright

It is worth the time doing this as you want to produce a socket that the arm will fit into snugly.

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Using the arm to score out the shape of the socket

Once the shape had been marked out with my knife I used my saw to cut into the upright, one on each side and then a couple of cuts through the middle.

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Roughing out the socket

I used my knife then to carve out all the loose excess wood and to smooth all the sides out.

I continually kept trying to insert the triangulated end of the arm to see if it would fit. As I wanted to keep as much wood on the arm I just used my knife to keep carving of more wood from the socket area on the upright to enlarge it. Eventually the arm was able to be inserted into the socket and released without too much force but still fitted snugly.

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Finishing with the knife

To finish the upright  I chamfered the top so that it would not split when I hammered it into the ground and carved a strong point on the other end.

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Chamfering and pointing the upright

I hammered the upright and checked to make sure all the angles looked good. I like to have my crane uprights to have a little lean away from the fire but not too much as this could cause the arm to swing when it had a heavy load.

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Checking the angles

Hanging the pot hanger

The arm needs a little flat platform carved on the end with a little dimple  in it the pot hanger to balance on. I have explained in a previous post on carving an adjustable pot hanger on how to make one of these.

Just make sure that you carve the flat platform on the correct plane in relation to how the arm fits into the upright – I used the triangular end as a guide for this.

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Carving the pot hanger end of the arm

You can see in the picture below the end of the arm has a slightly flattened surface and a slightly curved surface underneath it.

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Completed

If your pole is long enough you could carve your pot hanger from it. In this case I had plenty on hand so just used one I had made before.

Testing

You can see in the picture below how the pot hanger sits on the tip of the arm in the little dimple. It looks very fragile but it can hold a lot of weight if everything is carved properly.

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Attaching a pot hanger

I decided to shorten the arm of the crane as it bent a bit with the weight of the full kettle so rather than cut the end with the dimple I just extended the triangulated area of the arm so that it could be adjusted easily(I did trim the back of the arm later).

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Shortened arm

I was quite happy with the arm being this length for the weight of the full kettle.

I also brought out one of my Dutch Ovens and filled it with water to test out the crane. I decided though to carve another shorted arm so that it would stand up to the extra weight better.

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A full kettle – little bend in the arm

This shorter arm did bend a little bit but it did not break. Just to make sure I left the pot hanging off the crane for two days without any problems.

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Shorter arm for a heavy pot – more pronounced bend but still workable

I took the crane to a Sea Cadet camp last weekend and it was used all weekend to keep the kettle on the go. There were a lot of staff around the campfire most of the time but due to its minimal footprint the crane did not get in anyone’s way.

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Kettles on

I really like this crane for various reasons, these being it is simple, quick to make, tidy and strong.

If you have never made a crane before I recommend this type as one to experiment with.

Cheers

George

10 Reasons to Bushmoot – 3/10 – Craft, Constructions and Art

For ten years now I have been going to the BCUK Bushmoot and I have had great fun learning new crafts, making some amazing constructions and occasionally dabbling in a bit of art.

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Craft, art and constructions

This post cannot do justice to the wide variety of crafts, constructions and artistic endeavours that are undertaken however I have trawled through my picture library to try my best.

One of the most talented carvers who attends the moot regularly is Dean Allen. Dean makes beautiful spoons (particularly Welsh Spoons) and some fine primitive crafts as well.

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Carving craft from Dean

Hands are always busy doing something at the Moot – twisting grass rope, weaving beautiful tablet bands, embroidering flags and constructing clay pots – to name just a few activities.

I have attended the classes with Perry McGee on grass rope making and tablet weaving with Susannah Parsons. Both classes were hugely enjoyable as these instructors are experts in their craft.

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Hands on with it all

I have dabbled in animal hide work from scraping to tanning, and I know it is hard work (see my earlier blog How To….Make Buckskin from a Deer Hide). Theresa Kamper however makes it look so easy. She studied everything to do with working with animal hides for her PhD and is fantastically knowledgeable on the subject of everything we regard as ‘Primitive Skills’, and is happy to share that knowledge at the Moot.

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Primitive skills craft from Theresa

Basket- and lobster-pot making is very popular at the Moot. Our regular instructor on this is Julie Wagstaff from the Welsh Willow Works.

I have never had the time to do one of Jules’s classes however everyone I have spoken with has really learned a lot from her. Jules has a really patient nature and a very creative pair of hands.

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Basket making

One day of the Moot is set aside as Traders Day. The Moot is not a particularly commercial event for traders however we do have a small shop open most days with a bring and buy stand.

On Traders Day many of the members set up a stand to sell their ‘wares’. Some of this is second hand, others have brand new bought-in goods, and a few sell their own creations. Some of these items like the baskets and the leather work you can see below are highly crafted and intricate.

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Traders day

A post on craft cannot be complete without mentioning Mr Dave Budd. Dave is a master craftsman when it comes to metalwork, Using only the most rudimentary (but highly suited to the job) equipment he runs his own forge for us every year.

Dave makes excellent knives and other woodland working tools. My daughter Catherine enjoys being the ‘Pump Monkey’ –  keeping the pump going to heat the forge. Dave also donated this year a beautiful knife and a bodkin arrow point as prizes for the archery competition.

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Dave Budd iron craft

Another metalworker who is starting to experiment with this material is my Bushmoot neighbour Ian Woodham. A few years ago Ian showed a class I was running how he built a gas wood-burning stove out of a paint can. I was so impressed with it that I made one myself and wrote a tutorial on it – How To….Build a Wood Gas Stove.

This year Ian brought along a new stove he had built out of two gas bottles. The stove had a burner on one side and an oven on the other and I can confirm it did make excellent pizzas and cakes. Since then he has built another one which I am hopefully going to be trying out soon (as soon as I can figure out how to transport it from Yorkshire to Hampshire).

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Cooking construction from Ian

We have had a number of leatherwork instructors over the years however Eric Methven has been teaching this art at the Moot the longest. Eric can turn his hand to most things when it comes to working with leather from water bottles, tankards and sheaths to the likes of beautiful arm guards for archery (we got one of these guards as a prize for the archery competition one year).

Our good friend Drew passed away a few years ago and he was a keen student of Eric’s. I still remember clearly Drew coming up to my camp to show me the new sheath he had just made for his Leatherman multitool.

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Leather craft from Eric

No Moot would be complete without some spoon carving. Our expert carver is Dean however quite a few of us lend a hand with this class. It is great to see all the kids learning to carve their first spoon (and adults too – that is my wife Alison with her first spoon below).

My first spoon at the Moot (way back in 2005) was quickly constructed from birch bark. It did not take long to make but it did impress me.

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Spoonage

I ran a competition one year where everyone was tasked with constructing something for a bushcraft camp. There were many entries and you can see three below.

I loved the little stool and the washing rack, which had a lot of love and care put into its construction. My entry was this freestanding hammock stand (no land anchors were needed) .

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Camp constructions

A couple of other construction projects have been around the theme of cooking. Tim Neobard built this fantastic pizza oven out of clay and straw last year. It baked some excellent pizzas (sadly some idiots smashed it up after the Moot finished).

Happily the oven was re-built by Neil this year using bricks as a skeleton so hopefully it will last for a few years.

My project this year has been on building campfire cranes and I tested out my Lap Joint crane at the Moot. It is a very simple device made out of one pole and I am happy to say it passed with flying colours. Since then I have been busy building other cranes with as many variations as I can think of.

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Fireside constructions

One thing you can be guaranteed about at the Moot is being astonished by the numerous things you can do with string, be that Dream Catchers, crochet or making whoopie slings.

We also had David Colter making Balearic slings out of string at the Moot and running a competition with them. Most bushcrafters are quite happy at the Moot to show you what they think are the best knots to use in any given situation.

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String craft

A very quiet craftsman is our very own Cap’n Badger. He uses a fine saw to carve bone and antler into beautiful pendants. You can see a couple of his designs in the picture below.

The pendant on the bottom right is the one he carved for me a few years ago. The design was very intricate (a Royal Marine dagger and parachute wings). Badger also made some more pendants this year and donated them to the archery competition where they were quickly snapped up by the competitors.

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Fine bone craft from Cap’n Badger

Now it is not all hard graft when it comes to the Moot. Last year my friend Richard brought along a number of his bottles of white elderberry wine. I managed to get a private tasting session and I was very impressed with the quality of the wine that he had produced.

Richard has managed to cultivate his own ‘orchard’ of elder trees that produce white elderberries. This has taken him years to do and it has paid off for him with some excellent wine.

I think though that the most beautiful sight you will come across at the Moot must be the fantastic mosaics of plants made by Keith Beaney (Keith refers to them as Land Art and you can see why clearly). Keith will spend hours producing these wonderful spectacles for us to marvel at. Many of the children head off to collect materials, inspired by his creations, and leave their own mosaics dotted around the woods.

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Liquid art from Richard and plant art from Keith

I could have added lots more on this subject but I have to end somewhere.

I am looking forward to next year when I can practice some of these arts and crafts again and learn new ones.

Cheers

George

The Wilderness Gathering – 2015

Last August found me back at the Wilderness Gathering with my good friends Fraser Christian (from Coastal Survival), Stephen Herries, Danny Stocks and Si Parker.

I have been going to the Gathering so long now that I feel part of the furniture (I did miss the very first one) but I would not miss it for the world.

Coastal Survival at the Wilderness Gathering
Coastal Survival at the Wilderness Gathering

Work kept me busy this year so I did not get down to West Knoyle until the Friday so the guys had set everything up before I arrived. I also met Danny’s wife Lorna for the first time this year.

The Friday for me was a relaxed affair setting up my tent and catching up with old friends.  That evening found us all relaxing to the music and light show from the band area.

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Great evenings

Throughout the whole weekend we would spend time weaving a willow trap for catching crabs and lobsters. This was harder than it looked and I must admit that Danny did the majority of the weaving.

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Lots of craft

Last year Fraser had a cold smoker set up on his stand and this year he decided on setting up a hot smoker made out of a cardboard box.

It is called a hot smoker as the small smudge fire that generates the smoke is inside the box as opposed to the cold smoker that has the smudge fire located outside of the box.

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Hot smoking

Due to an algal bloom along the Sputh West coast of the UK we could not get fish for smoking however Fraser did get some delicious cockles from Scotland that he smoked. After smoking the cockles Fraser explained how he further preserved them using either oils or vinegar.

The class he ran from the stand was well attended and I did not manage to get a taste of the cockles before they were all eaten by an appreciative audience.

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Tasty treats

Being the Coastal Survival stand we spent time demonstrating net making and Fraser managed to get himself filmed by what looked like a very professional looking film maker. I do not know who he was but he did look the part and Fraser being a bit of an extrovert loved it.

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A busy stand

The whole weekend was very busy however I did manage to get out and see the rest of the Gathering a few times.

Across from us I found Jason demonstrating his bow drill skills and getting the kids to join in with him. It was also great to catch up with Pablo, JP, Hannah and Richard from the Woodlife Trails team across the way from our stand.

I had a great chat with Jon Mac (of Spooncarvingfirsteps fame) and was really chuffed to be allowed to handle many of the new knives he and Chris Grant  are jointly working on. Jon has since gotten married since I spoke with him to Sarah so I want to extend my congratulations to them both now.

While I was on the stand my friend David Willis asked if I could take some pictures of his baking class. David had a busy time demonstrating and teaching folk to bake bread over an open fire. The good thing about being his photographer was that I got to test all the bread.

Friends
Friends

Saturday night was another night of great music and catching up with friends and the light show was again very impressive.

Great music
Great music

I spent quite a bit of time taking many pictures of the flames of our fire and was rewarded with these cracking Fire Faces. I can see one howler in the left hand picture and at least three faces in the right hand picture.

How many can you see?

Fire Faces - How many can you see?
Fire Faces – How many can you see?

Later that evening I spent some time with Martin Burkinshaw learning the art of low light level photography. Martin gave me some great tips and let me try out his tripod to capture the picture of the Milky Way you can see below.

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Lowlight photography

Sunday found me catching up with our friends Rich and Dave. Rich had recently broken his wrist however that did not stop him getting out and about, though he did take a bit of flak for his nice new black armband.

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Lots of net making

I spotted some movement on the lake on the Sunday afternoon and managed to get these great snaps of this father and son combo out for a cruise on their newly crafted coracle.

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Caravel spotting

I did not get out to see as much of the Gathering as I did last year when I managed to film much of it however I had a great time teaching lots of kids how to make fishing spears and chatting with our neighbours Sonni and Angela.

This year has also been a good year for Fraser’s book Eat the Beach as we managed to sell quite a few copies for him over the weekend.

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Keeping busy

To finish up we got given a lovely Lemon Drizzle cake for free by the kitchen staff at the Gathering and somehow it ended up as a birthday cake for our own Stephen Herries. I have no idea how old he is but he was happy anyway :-).

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Birthday treat

Another year over for the Wilderness Gathering however I hope it is nowhere near my last one.

Cheers

George

10 Reasons to Bushmoot – 2/10 – Competitiveness

The BCUK Bushmoot is about sharing knowledge however one thing it does bring out in me is my competitive spirit. That may be through making a tug of war rope out of grass through to the serious competitiveness of the archery range.

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Competition time

This sharing of knowledge may come about in many ways such as workshops, one to one sessions, presentations and competitions. This post is focussed on the many competitive activities we  undertake over the two weeks of the Bushmoot.

The first picture I shared was of the grass  tug of war we undertook under the watchful eye of Perry McGee from the National Tracking School. Perry showed us how to quickly gather grass, twist it, create rope and most importantly how to have fun with what we created.

Catapult

One of the activities that attracted participants from all age ranges was the catapult. The catapult is a tool for all ages I think – sometimes we were aiming for accuracy and sometimes aiming just for the fun of it 🙂

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Cattie time

The Sling

My friend David Colter has introduced the sling and in particular the Balearic style of sling. The throwers all made their own slings from string and leather and it attracted participants of all age groups.

David has run classes on this for a number of years and he had a great time running a competition on the sand dunes this year. The sling throws the projectile at very high speed so I think they used tennis balls for safety’s sake.

Next year David is making this official by running the Balearic slinging world championship event at the Bushmoot.

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The Slingshot

Atlatl

One of my favourite events is the Atlatl. This again is a very ancient art and was (and still is in certain parts of the world) used as a hunting tool.

I have lots of different types of Atlatl throwers and darts however I use unsharpened bamboo canes for training. I use Atlatl throwers with rest attachments for the kids to use (they can be difficult to hold) and spend many an hour with my friend Charlie Brookes on the range teaching them to throw.

This is a particularly popular activity for kids of all ages (most adults at the Bushmoot come under this category as well) as the appeal of throwing Atlatl darts down range can be quite addictive.

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The Atlatl

Axe/Spade throwing

We run an axe and spade throwing range as well ( more difficult than it looks) and it provokes stiff competition. I have not done this to any great degree (though I hope to throw more next year) but it does make for great viewing and photography.

I noticed the guys were throwing next to Cap’n Badger’s white tarp and positioned myself to try and capture the axes and spades in flight. Needles to say I had my lens well zoomed in and the shutter speed really fast.

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Axe/Spade throwing

I think Cap’n Badger was trying to tell me here what he thought of Phil’s throwing technique 😉

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Cap’n Badger

Archery

Each year we (that is usually Cap’n Badger, Paul Pomfrey and myself) run the archery range for an hour or two in the evening. This allows anyone who wants time to get in a bit of practice.

We run lots of classes for the kids offering tuition or time for parents to teach their own kids. For many who come to the Bushmoot this is the first time they have ever shot a bow.

Many of the bows are made on site including the Bhutenese bows (with Wayne Jones) and the Father and Son bows by Chris Pryke (I used to make these at the Bushmoot as well).

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Little ones archery

The archery range is situated well away from the main camping area in the centre of a beautiful copse. The range is managed well by a core team and there is plenty of time to practise before the competition.

We have a competition for the kids and one for the adults. Everyone who enters brings a present along and we also have prizes donated by others so the so the spirit of competitiveness can be quite fierce.

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Big ones archery

Usually we have three rounds of shots at different distances and the judges make sure everything is tallied up correctly.

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Keeping an eye on things

The award ceremony is always great fun (especially as the scores are read out) and everyone walks away with at least one prize.

As the years have gone by and the competition has become a normal part of the Bushmoot many people look forward to this event so that they can walk away as champion.

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Prizes

The Bushmoot is a great place to learn however it is also a great place to come and test yourself against others, be that making grass rope the quickest through to being crowned archery champ for 2016 – who knows it could be you 🙂

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Happy Competitors

See some of you there next year.

George

From Bowdrill to Bone – The Guga

A package arrived in the post for me yesterday from my sister Tina in the Isle of Lewis: our annual treat of Guga.

Guga is salted young gannet – my family are amongst those allowed to undertake the annual Guga Hunt to a rocky island called Sula Sgeir off the coast of the Isle of Lewis every August. The hunt is covered by the Protection of Birds Act 1954 – the men are allowed to catch up to 2000 birds a year. A great description of the whole hunt can be found here – The Guga Hunters of Ness.

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The Guga Claw – Loved by my kids

Guga has a very strong taste and smell (which I love, however my wife Alison is not so keen) so I tend to cook it outdoors. This year I decided to get the kids doing a bit of bowdrill to light the fire and we soon had a good ember going.

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Bit of Bowdrill to get an ember

Next the ember was popped into a bundle and then we took it in turns to blow into it to spread the ember so that it would catch.

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A huff and a puff

In no time we had a bit of flamage and I think in the top right picture below we got an appearance from Daffy Duck – can you see him?

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Flammage

The Guga gets boiled for an hour with one change of water in that time (due to the salt, oils and fat). After half an hour I put the spuds on as well.

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Guga and spuds are on

For this meal I used two different cranes. The Guga was hung on my Mortice and Tenon crane (I have not blogged on how to make this crane yet) and the spuds went onto the Lap Joint crane. Both are ideal for this type of cooking as I could easily adjust the heights of the pots to control the rate of boiling.

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The Guga takes an hour (with one change of water)

After an hour all that was left to do was to eat the Guga and spuds. The kids had their friends round and they liked the Guga meat but would not ‘sook’ on the claw. Catherine and Finlay were introduced to the Guga as babies by sucking on the claw (this tradition dates way back in time) so they love the taste of it.

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Yum

There was a little left over for me and Alison even had a bit this year saying that it was not too bad: ‘Tastes a bit like anchovies.’

Thanks to my sister Tina and my brother Finlay for sending me my annual Guga and to Uncle Dods and the rest of the crew for making the trek once again to catch them.

Cheers

George

10 Reasons to Bushmoot – 1/10 – Learning

The Bushmoot (referred to generally as the Moot) is an annual event here in the UK and for many years now has taken place at Merthyr Mawr in South Wales. The name Bushmoot comes from the word Bushcraft (as popularised by Richard Graves and Mors Kochanski) and the Saxon word Moot (used to describe a gathering of people).

I like the Moot as it is a gathering of like-minded people with a multitude of skills to share with each other. Not only can kids run free and have fun but so can the adults and I am a firm believer in learning through fun .

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Fun learning

I am writing 10 blog posts on the Moot this year and this first one is on the theme of Learning. I tried to write just one post however I really struggled to choose just a few pictures out of the many hundreds I took. My wife Alison suggested a number of short blog posts on different themes from the Moot and so here we are.

A couple of well-attended courses nowadays are the Starter course (a full breakdown of the course can be seen here on the BCUK site) and the Spoon carving course run by Dean Allen. Alison and our kids did the spoon carving course this year with Dean and carved their very first spoons.

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The basics

I managed to fit in a few courses this year and did a cracking traps course with Perry McGee.

The Moot is usually run over 2 weeks with a core 5 days in the middle where many short courses (2 hrs to 1 day) such as fire making, bow making, spoon carving, tarpology, knife safety, axe work, net making, cordage making, bread making, foraging, atlatl making and knotwork, to name just a few, are run.

There are other longer courses run either side of the core days (with an additional fee) such as an accredited First Aid course, Bhutenese bow making, coastal survival, tracking and lobster pot making with willow.

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Fine detail

Many of the courses are based on using different materials, from basket making, pottery, sling making to learning about different knots.

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Using different materials

We get lots of full-time instructors visiting the Moot like Fraser Christian (Coastal Survival), Perry McGee (National Tracking School). Wayne Jones (Forest Knights), Julia Wagstaff (Welsh Willow Works),  David Willis (Bushcraft with David Willis), Theresa Emmerich (tanning expert) and Richard Cook our First Aid expert.

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Advice from the experts

I enjoyed running the ‘show and tell’ workshop on campfire cooking constructions and observing the father and son bows being made.

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Working with wood

One of the things I love about the Moot is the sharing of knowledge such as how a stove was constructed or that Ikea make good quality drying racks that double up as brilliant cooking grills.

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A bit of metal

A favourite of mine is the art of fire making. At the Moot you can learn about making fire with firesteels (old and modern), bowdrill, handrill, with damp tinder, pump drills and in many other ways.

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Flamage

Shelter building is a big subject and is covered well, from simple tarps and debris shelters to large group tarps, permanent constructions and the magical art of tarpology.

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Shelter in many forms

There are many other courses to attend at the Moot with new ideas coming up each year. I have found that the Moot has really broadened my knowledge of all things Bushcraft over the years and I expect will continue to do so for many more to come.

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Sharing knowledge

Look out for more reasons to Bushmoot soon…

Cheers

George